Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Earthiness of Fall

Mushrooms in the box are always a treat for me.  The earthiness they bring to any dish just fits this time of year.  The weather has turned a bit cooler, and will continue to cool.  So let's make some soup!  Mushroom soups broadly fall into two categories, creamy and not creamy.  In many recipes, a basic mushroom ragout serves as a foundation.  I'll give you a ragout recipe at the end, but meanwhile let's talk about some soup.

Photo via Food & Wine

Soups Without the Cream
I'm making mushroom barley soup with my mushrooms.  It's really hearty and filling, and has been a family favorite for some time now.  This mushroom and sausage soup is along a similar vein, although I don't think angel hair pasta fits too well.  I use some small, round pasta, such as orecchiette, which works well.  I also love this porcini mushroom soup recipe, the tomatoes really make it unusual as far as mushroom soups go.  The mushrooms in the box are baby bellas, which can fit nicely in any of these recipes, either alone or mixed with other types.

Photo via Food & Wine

Creamy Mushroom Soups
I've been on a quest for the perfect creamy mushroom soup recipe for what seems like forever.  (Corny as it seems, I do think La Madeleine does a pretty solid job.)  Some, such as this one, use heavy cream.  Others, however, get their creamy texture from just the mushrooms and butter.  Two good examples are here and here.

Mushroom Ragout
This is a chunky "sauce" made from mushrooms, and it's really a versatile fall recipe.  You can add it to soups to bring in the creamy, earthy mushroom taste, substitute it wherever you use cream of mushroom soup to bring a richer, more complex taste, or (my favorite) use it to top baked or mashed potatoes.  Adapted from this recipe.


  • Olive oil, for sautéing
  • 4 ounces finely diced pancetta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh mushrooms, any type or mixture, sliced
  • 1 large shallot
  • 2-3 large sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 cup strong red wine
  • half-and-half, to taste
  • salt and pepper

  1. Sautée the pancetta in the olive oil until crispy and golden, 5 minutes.  Remove the pancetta to a plate, reserving the rendered fat in the pan.  Melt the butter in the pan as well.
  2. Cook the shallot until soft and transparent, then add the mushrooms and thyme.  Cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Remove the mushrooms, discard the thyme, and deglaze the pan with the wine.  Cook until reduced by half, then fold back in the mushrooms and pancetta.  Season with salt and pepper.  If using cream, add it 2 tablespoons at a time until you reach your desired consistency, then reduce slightly.
  4. Serve over potatoes, polenta, or in an omelet.

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