The country has been in the midst of a cold snap that will probably place the winter of '14 in the record books. Apparently one spot in the Aloha State even dropped below 32° F the other morning...making it so all fifty states were reporting temperatures below the freezing mark in at least one location. In many parts of the country it is so cold that 32° sounds downright balmy. Where I live the polar vortex has moved on by, but it is still cold...and now it is damp too. I imagine that for most people, heading back out into the elements after a long day at work, just to get something to eat, would be extremely unappealing...making this perfect weather for staying in to cook. Perfect weather for a rich casserole or a stew...a creamy or hearty baked pasta...or a warm and flavorful bowl of soup.
At my house we have been eating a lot of soup: Cream of Wild Rice with Vegetables & Country Ham....Classic Tomato....Corn Chowder.... Last night I made a Cream of Mushroom and Wild Rice. Most of these soups were made just because I was hungry for them, but last night's was made in preparation for a winter soups class that I will be teaching next week (it's so nice that the weather is cooperating). The class is filled with my favorites...some tried and true, and others that are old friends that I have updated for the class. Last night's soup falls into this latter category.
I have always loved the combination of mushrooms and wild rice so several years ago when I was asked to help develop some soup and salad recipes for a local restaurant and deli I decided to work this combination into a velouté-based soup similar to a cream of wild rice soup (mentioned above) that I have been making for years. For the deli I made a thick, stew-like version that included pieces of shredded chicken. It was delicious—chunky and satisfying... just the kind of thing one might expect to find at an old-fashioned deli. To turn the recipe into something that is a bit more to my taste (for a class advertised as featuring my favorites), I have reworked it so that it is all about the mushrooms...increasing the fresh mushrooms by fifty percent, adding dried porcini and leeks (wonderful with mushrooms) and omitting the chicken. The soup is still hearty...but it is also refined. Just the kind of soup I like to eat.
So if soup is exactly what you are craving...and you love mushrooms...you should give this one a try. Or, you can check out some of the other soup recipes that I have shared over the past few years. Hopefully you'll find one...or two...that will be just the thing—warming you right down to your toes and providing a much needed respite from the cold.
Cream of Mushroom & Wild Rice
1/4 oz. dried porcini (optional)
1 c. boiling water
4 oz. (2/3 c.) wild rice, rinsed
2 qts. chicken stock, divided
8 T. butter, divided
1 lb. mushrooms—I use Crimini & white button...but you could use whatever you like...cleaned, halved if larger than an inch across and thinly sliced
1/2 lb. Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved if large and sliced thinly cross-wise
|Mushrooms are cut so they will be in bite-sized pieces|
2/3 c. white wine
1 large or 2 small leeks—white and pale green parts only, cut in a 1/4-inch dice and rinsed in several changes of water to remove all grit
1 onion cut in a 1/4-inch dice (about 10 oz.)
2 medium ribs celery cut in a 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic minced
1 T. minced fresh thyme
1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. heavy cream
Salt & pepper, to taste
Minced chives or parsley
|Ingredients for half a recipe|
If using dried porcini, place in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over. Let sit until rehydrated and soft...30 to 45 minutes. Lift porcini out and rinse. Mince finely and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter or dampened paper towel and reserve separately.
|Important to rinse the soaked mushrooms and strain the liquid through a filter|
of some kind--note the grit remaining in the bowl in which the mushrooms
were soaked and in the filter. You don't want grit in your soup.
Meanwhile, place rice in a pot with half of the stock. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently until the rice is tender, but not blown open—30 to 40 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock and rice separately.
Melt 4 T. butter in a large, wide sauté pan. Increase the heat to moderately high and add the mushrooms along with a couple of good pinches of salt. Cook stirring occasionally until the mushrooms have reduced in volume and any liquid they have given off has evaporated. The mushrooms should be tender and caramelized in places.
Add the wine and reduce to a glaze. Set aside.
While the rice and mushrooms cook, melt the remaining 4 T. of butter in a stock pot over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, onions, celery, garlic and thyme along with a pinch of salt. Stir to coat the vegetables in the butter. As soon as the vegetables begin to sizzle, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and sweat until very tender (15 to 20 minutes). Uncover. If the pan seems dry, add another tablespoon of butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the remaining quart of stock and bring to a simmer. Add the reserved mushrooms (both the sautéed and rehydrated) and the rice and porcini liquids. Simmer, with the pot half covered, for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Add the cream and the wild rice and heat through. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve garnished with minced chives or parsley if you like. Makes a scant 3 quarts soup.
Note: To make a hearty chicken variation, omit the shiitake mushrooms and leeks, increase the butter the onion and celery are cooked in to 6 T. and the flour to 3/4 cups. Add 2 cups of diced or shredded cooked chicken when you add the wild rice.
|Warm soup on a cold night...|