Fall Continues to trundle along, with damp, cold mornings, and even colder evenings. With my parents visiting, we have been quite lucky with the weather – we’ve been able to get out of the house for some nice walks. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are the hikes my Mom and I used to take together. We used to go backpacking and hiking – just the two of us. It has left me with a lifelong love of the woods and nature, especially in the Autumn. I have hopes that my daughter will also love the woods and learn all about the nature that is on our doorstep and beyond.
Continuing on with the theme of Autumn, I felt that the day called for fresh bread and soup for dinner. Mushrooms are everywhere right now – in the store and in the woods as well (I don’t pick mushrooms myself though – I can only identify a couple that I know not to eat!), so I thought a rich, velvety mushroom soup was in order.
While the recipe is super easy to make, it does take a bit of time – mostly for the preparation. Mushrooms should not be washed under water, but rather wiped down with a damp paper towel, then sliced. This was the time consuming part. After that, everything goes rather quickly. I chose to use the humble button mushroom for 2 main reasons; the first, the flavor of the soup will get a boost from some dried porcini, and I felt using a mix of other wild mushrooms would be lost, and the second reason I used the brown button mushrooms: they were on sale. So the first step is to slice them up, reserving a couple nice big ones for the garnish at the end. I also used a big handful of dried porcini mushrooms and put them to soak in boiling water. Adding other dried mushrooms would also be tasty, such as black trumpets or even morels.
Anyway, just plop the sliced mushrooms in a dutch oven with a good soup of olive oil over medium high heat. The mushrooms will start to cook down and release a lot of liquid. When the liquid starts to show on the bottom of the pan, add the sliced shallot, garlic and thyme with a healthy seasoning of salt and pepper.
Soon there will be a lot of liquid on the bottom of the pan. When this is almost gone, drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid and add to the pan. Strain out the grit from the bottom of the porcini liquid (or as I do, let it settle, then just pour off the top, leaving the dregs on the bottom) and add to the mushrooms. Top up with 1 liter of hot chicken stock and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer.
When it has simmered for at least 45 minutes, whiz it up to a smooth consistency with an immersion blender. Before blending however, you can leave the soup on low for a long time. I had it simmering away while we took our daughter to her swim class for over 1.5 hours. When we were back, I finished up the recipe in the 20 minutes before dinner time. Taste for seasoning and add 2 large tablespoons mascarpone cheese and stir gently through. Do not let it boil now, but keep warm while you finish up the dish.
For the open-faced sandwiches, fry up enough bacon that each slice of bread will have 2 pieces. Pat dry and keep warm – I place them on a paper towel lined plate in my plate warmer drawer. Slice up the reserved mushrooms in pretty slices. In the bacon fat in the pan, fry these slices gently until nice and brown. Season with a little salt and pepper.
I then placed all sandwich ingredients on plates on the table for everyone to make their own. I had made some fresh bread and sliced nice, thick slices, a plate of bacon, a bunch of arugula, a super-crisp apple in slices and, one of my favorites, a gorgonzola and mascarpone mix. It comes layered, but is easy enough to make yourself for this purpose. You can allow the cheeses to come to room temperature then swirl the mascarpone through the gorgonzola. The idea is that they are combined in one spoonful, but separate and distinct.
Serve up the soup in pre-warmed soup plate, top with black truffle oil, a dash of chopped parsley and a couple fried mushrooms.
Lush Mushroom Soup with Autumnal Sandwiches
- For the Soup:
- 25 g dried porcini mushrooms
- 700 g brown button mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 very large shallot
- Bunch of fresh thyme
- 1 liter chicken stock, hot
- Small clump of Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 2 generous tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- Black truffle oil
- Olive oil
- 1 thick slice fresh bread per person
- Layered gorgonzola and mascarpone cheese (or a mix of equal parts)
- 2 slices bacon per person
- A few handfuls of arugula salad
- 1 super crisp apple, thinly sliced
For the Sandwiches:
1) Put porcini in a small bowl and cover with boiling water; put a plate on top to trap the steam and set aside.
2) Put a couple of nice looking mushrooms aside. Clean and thinly slice the rest of the button mushrooms and put in a Dutch oven with a slug of olive oil over medium-high heat.
3) Finely slice the garlic and shallot, strip the leaves from the thyme stalks and add to mushrooms.
4) When the liquid is mostly gone from the mushrooms in the pan, add the porcini along with the soaking liquid (strain out the grit from the bottom first). Season with salt and pepper.
5) Pour in the hot stock, cover and turn down heat to medium-low, allowing it to simmer for at least 45 minutes.
6) As dinner approaches, fry up your bacon slices, drain on paper towels and keep warm (I use the plate warmer drawer in my oven).
7) Clean and nicely slice the mushrooms that have been set aside, and fry in bacon fat; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
8) Using a stick blender, carefully puree the soup until smooth. Taste for seasoning, and stir in the mascarpone cheese.
9) Ladle soup into warmed soup plates, drizzle on the truffle oil, add a sprinkling of parsley and top with a couple pretty fried mushroom slices.
10) Slather some warm slices of bread with the mascarpone and gorgonzola cheese mixture, top with 2 slices of bacon, a small clump of arugula and top with apple slices.