Magic Mushrooms


No, not that kind of magic mushroom, but even the varieties we devote to culinary use are mystically, almost transcendently, delicious.  Enough so, in fact, to inspire one to give this whole vegetarian thing a second thought.  Mushrooms are so rich in that wonderful umami taste they provide enough savory satisfaction to placate even the most ardent carnivore.

In fact, a steaming bowl of mushroom soup, as pictured above, would be just the thing for Lent.  Sure, the recipe specifies using chicken stock (which I did, as I have so much in my freezer right now), but it would be just as good with vegetable stock.  This, and sweating the onions in olive oil instead of butter,  would make it purely vegetarian.  My version is close to being so, but not quite.

Actually, it isn’t my version, strictly speaking, as Anthony Bourdain developed the recipe originally when he was chef at Les Halles.  I found the recipe here, on a site called kitchn.

Just realized this is the third celebrity chef featured in as many weeks (Bourdain today, Ming Tsai last time and Emeril two weeks ago).  Really?  Apparently, the stars just obsess some of us.  Next week we’ll return to Earth, I promise.

In the meantime, enjoy the trip only magic mushrooms can provide.  Umami!

Be careful, though, as mushrooms are a gateway food.  Before you know it, you’ll be a vegetarian.  It could happen to anyone, even to a poultry fiend like me.

*****

Mushroom Soup

  • 1/2 ounce dried wild mushrooms, minced (*1)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (*2)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped (*3)
  • 16 ounces white mushrooms, chopped (*4)
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 5 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 teaspoons black pepper

Pour the water and wine into a small saucepan and heat until boiling.  Add the dried mushrooms and turn off the heat.  Let sit for twenty to thirty minutes while you make the other preparations.

In a stockpot melt the butter over low heat.  Chop the onion to a medium dice and gently fry it in the butter.  Add the garlic and let it sweat in the butter for about eight minutes.  Keep the heat on low so nothing browns.

Add the white mushrooms and stir until thoroughly coated in the butter.  Drain the wild mushrooms while reserving their steeping liquid.  Add the wild mushrooms to the pot and sweat everything for another ten minutes.

Add the steeping liquid, rosemary and chicken stock (*5) and raise the heat slightly until the mixture comes to a low simmer.  Simmer for about an hour.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper, remove the rosemary sprig and serve.

*****

NOTES:

1 – I used dried morels; they’re expensive, but delectable.  They were small enough not to require chopping too.

2 – Had some sauvignon blanc left over from last week, so it was a happy coincidence.

3 – Or two large shallots.  You know me…

4 – I used only eight ounces of the whites, plus oyster mushrooms and enoki.  It was a nice combination.

5 – At this point I added a few splashes of sherry to the pot.  Definitely an improvement.

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