Friday, December 2, 2011

I Heart Mushrooms

I admit it. I have an unabashed love of mushrooms.  Oyster, portabello, shitake, porcini, even the common cremini. And that's only what you can (sometimes) find in stores! Some Baltimore locals, who are clearly better than I, have expanded upon the 'shrooms available to them by learning how to forage for their own.  In fact, an interest in mushroom foraging is blooming all over the country. I have not yet had the good fortune to meet any of these folks, but I have met more than a few at the other end of the spectrum: people who don't like mushrooms. I immediately recognize these people as inferior. Is it wrong to judge someone based on their food choices? Probably. What if they were similarly judging us mushroom lovers?

"How can they think a bowl full of pureed fungus is half as good as a Big Mac?" they would say.

Oh, but it is.

There are few foods more satisfying on a crisp Autumn evening than a well-done mushroom soup. In fact, as I write these words there is a large pot full of the little guys boiling on my stove. Their aroma is one of fresh, moist earth, verging on meaty; the smell is a bit salty. There are five varieties in my pot, each one beautifully unique and infinitely flavorful.

The recipe comes from the capable kitchen of Jamie Oliver, converted from the metric system for readers' convenience and slightly modified because we can't find all of the same ingredients easily in the States.

2 packages dried porcini mushrooms
A dollop of olive oil
600g fresh mushrooms (Pick up a few varieties in the produce section to equal 600g. I was able to get cremini, shitake, and portabello easily; I got lucky and found some fresh oyster mushrooms as well. The more exotic the better! Weigh them on the scale in the produce section if the weight is not listed or they are not packaged.)
1 bulb of garlic (6-7 cloves)
1 red onion
A bit of butter
1 handful of fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable stock
1 handful fresh parsley
2T mascarpone cheese
A bit of lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Put the dried porcini in a bowl. Heat up water just to boiling and pour it over the porcini, just enough to cover them. Set aside.

Chop the red onion, garlic cloves, and pick the thyme leaves. Throw all this in a bowl and set aside.

Slice, roughly chop, and rinse off the fresh mushrooms. Heat a dollop of olive oil in a deep pan (I used a wok-style pan), and add the fresh mushrooms. Cook for about a minute. Add the onion/garlic/thyme as well as a knob of butter to the pan. Stir this all around for another minute or two.

Meanwhile, strain the porcini liquid (but save it). Chop half of the porcini and leave the other half whole. Add all the porcini as well as the liquid to the pot. Bring the entire mixture to a simmer and let it cook for about 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked off.

In a separate soup pot, combine the broth and the mushroom mixture. Once again, bring to a simmer and cook another 20 minutes, uncovered. After that,  break out your immersion blender and blend the soup until it's a good chunky consistency - not smooth. If you are lacking in immersion blender inventory, ladle half of the soup into a blender, blend, and put it back in the pot. Add parsley and mascarpone.

Important: This really makes the dish. When serving, combine a bit of lemon juice, salt, and pepper and spoon a little of this into the soup. The lemon brings out the best parts of mushroom flavor.

For more great recipes and healthy living ideas, check out Fight Back Fridays over on the Food Renegade blog.


  1. Hey, I don't like mushrooms! :( waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa You think I'm inferior. :'-(

  2. Ha! Good thing it was a bit of an exaggeration for comedic effect so we can still be friends!!! ;-)


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