Mushroom soup

The sugar plums that recently danced in my head seem to have settled around my waist for a long winter’s nap.  The inevitable (at least for me) holiday bloat has achieved maximum proportions and now it’s time to get back to some more healthy and moderate eating habits.
 
With the weather having turned cold again, soup sprang to mind.  So I decided to try my hand at a hearty, satisfying but healthy pot of mushroom soup.
 
This was not going to be a rich and fat filled cream of mushroom soup as envisioned by Campbell’s, Knorr’s or some other commercial mass producer.  Rather I was looking for something a tad lighter in calories yet flavorful enough to satisfy. 
 
Mushrooms are, in and of themselves, quite nutritional.  They are rich in the B vitamins, Potassium and Selenium; low in fat, high in fiber; and the provide all the required amino acids to be considered a complete source of protein.  And they taste good…not a claim that can be made by every healthful food.
 
Search around your pantry, the fridge and the cupboards.  You probably have all you need to whip up a batch of mushroom soup:
  •  Fresh and/or dried mushrooms
  • Shallot, onion and/or garlic
  • Butter and/or Olive Oil
  • Stock of some sort
  • Salt, pepper and maybe some fresh herbs (parsley or thyme) 
Here’s what I used: 
  • 8 ounce package of fresh “Baby-Bella” (Crimini) mushrooms
  • 1 cup of dried “woodland” mushrooms
  • Two large shallots
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • 2 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Dry fino sherry
  • 1 sprig Fresh thyme
  • 1 quart Mushroom stock 
I began by soaking a cup of the dried mushrooms in two cups of boiling water.  Then I went about gathering the rest of my ingredients so that, by the time I was ready to add the reconstituted mushrooms, they had been soaking for 20-30 minutes.  You could omit the dried mushrooms and just use all fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped.
 
Over medium high heat, I melted about a tablespoon of butter in a four and a half quart sauce pan.  Before the butter melted completely I added about two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.  This raised the smoking point of the butter a little, kept the whole recipe a little lighter and added another level of flavor. You could use all butter or all olive oil.
 
With the butter/oil mixture hot, I added the minced shallots and sweat them until tender, but not caramelized. I’m very fond of shallots but if you don’t have some on hand, a 1/4 up of chopped onion and a clove of garlic could be substituted.
 
I tossed a couple of whole sprigs of fresh thyme and some fresh ground black pepper in with the shallots and stirred. If you have dried thyme on hand instead, you could add it later when you add all the stock.
 
Coarsely chop the fresh mushrooms and add to the pot.  Stir occasionally until browned and cooked down.  I drained the dried mushrooms and reserved the liquid.  Once the fresh mushrooms had cooked down a bit, I stirred in the dried ones.  At this point, I removed the thyme sprig from the pot.
 
I took a quarter cup of Fino sherry and stirred it into the pot, taking care to gather up any of the fond and stir it into the liquid.  A cream sherry might have been better, but the Fino was what I had on hand and open; a Marsala might be good; or any red or white wine you enjoy would probably work as well. Once the pot was deglazed, I added the reserved mushroom soaking liquid being careful not to let any of the grit that had settled out get into the soup pot.  I then added a quart of boxed, organic mushroom stock (chicken or vegetable stock would work just as well). 
 
Reducing the flame to low, I used an immersion blender to puree the contents of the pot.  If you don’t have one of these culinary magic wands, you can use a food processor or blender.  Just be sure to cool the mixture first to avoid a messy and potentially dangerous eruption.
 
Once pureed, add salt and adjust seasonings to taste.  Reheat and serve.
 
It’s a simple, tasty and healthy tonic for whatever ails you.
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