How most people feel about Fall because of apples and pears and pumpkin is how I feel about Fall but because of Chanterelle mushrooms. I love them. I use them in anything and everything I can, while I can. Here in the Pacific Northwest, they start to grow big and meaty after the first fall rains that begin around this time, and they only last through the first freeze, so it is a relatively short window.
I have family and friends that live in Sweden and I always see photos of the loot they forage for FREE from the plentiful Nordic forest and I am green with jealousy. I’m not sure what they cost where you live, but here in the Seattle area they tend to be a bit pricey. The grocer here on the island or Whole Foods sells them for $15/lbs (on a good day) but sometimes around this time of year, the local farm stands have them for $5 per half pound bag, and when I see them, I snatch ‘em up.
Enter Mr. Romansky on the scene. Also a die hard mushroom fan. Whenever I make something new, I always ask him to critique it for me. If its a dish involving mushrooms, it not so subtly comes back to me in the form of something that sounds like this: “However many mushrooms you think is enough… it's not. More. Mushrooms.” So now you know our secret. Fungi lovers.
Enter this soup on the scene. The BEST mushroom soup you will ever eat… we ate every last bit left in the pot.
This recipe will start you from the very beginning…you will make your own from scratch mushroom broth! Honestly, the stock is so good, you could stop there and just drink the broth out of mugs for a few days and still be glad you did it. But after the broth, you add leeks. Hooray for the friendliest onion. It also gets extra points for being naturally ombré. Gotta love those #foodgradients. And then there’s cream. And booze. So I highly recommend you keep going.
Of course, if you are short on time, you can skip the homemade broth and buy store-bought as your base, and it will still taste great. But, if you have the extra 5 mins of hands-on time and 30 mins of cook time (or could even make the broth the day before), I highly recommend you do. You use the stems of the mushrooms going in the soup to flavor the stock, so I particularly like that there’s a use for everything.
Serve this soup with as much crusty, toasted bread as your conscience allows. When I’m not looking, my husband even tears up extra pieces and buries them in his soup to make little bootleg croutons at the bottom of his bowl. Genius, if you ask me. But don’t tell him I saw him do it.
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
1.5 lbs of assorted mushrooms *
5 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 chopped sweet yellow onion **
1 carrot, unpeeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
2-3 sprigs of thyme, plus 1 Tbs minced leaves, divided ***
2 leeks, white and light green parts, split lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup half and half
1 cup 2% or whole milk
1/3 cup Brandy, like Cognac or Armagnac ****
1/3 cup minced flat leaf parsley, 1 pinch reserved for serving
Salt and Pepper to taste
*I used a mixture of Shitake, Cremini, Portobello, and Chanterelles. I recommend using as many chanterelles as your budget or location allows.
**If you are not making broth, you can omit 1 Tbs of butter, the olive oil, onion, carrot, garlic, and a couple sprigs of thyme.
***Fresh thyme is where its at. I buy one of those little containers of it at Trader Joes for less than $2 and it stays fresh for weeks, you can make herb butter out of it, you name it! But if you need to use dried, definitely use less: 1 tbs fresh= 1 tsp dried.
****I used Prince D’Arginac, Armagnac —a $15 or so bottle that I keep around exclusively for cooking. I guess you can only call Cognac by that name when it comes from the Cognac region of France, but Armagnac is its cousin from the (you guessed it) Armagnac region of France. If you don’t have or want to use brandy for this purpose, Sherry or Marsala Wine might be a nice substitute.
WHAT YOU'LL DO
Start by wiping the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel or brushing with a pastry brush. (I don’t ever wash mushrooms because they get waterlogged. Mushrooms are absorbent, so I want them absorbing things like cream and fragrant broth later, not tap water). Pop off the stems, and if you are making the broth, coarsely chop them and set them apart from the mushrooms.
To make the stock:
Heat the olive oil and 1 Tbs butter in a large pot, add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, thyme sprigs, garlic, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 mins, until the onions and mushrooms are starting to brown. Pour in 6 cups of water, bring up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for about 30 mins. Then place a colander in a large bowl, strain the liquid from the vegetables, and the broth you have remaining should be about 4 cups of stock. Wipe out your pot, and set it back on the stove.
If you have pre-made mushroom stock, you can skip to this step—
To make the soup:
Slice all your mushroom caps: I sliced them into small, 1/4 inch thick bite size pieces. Set aside.
In a large pot, melt 2 Tbs butter and add in the leeks. Cook over med-low heat until they start to caramelize, about 15 mins. Add the sliced mushrooms in two batches, adding 1 TBS with each batch. Cook an additional 10 mins until the mushrooms are browned, tender, and reducing their liquid. Add the flour and distribute evenly around the pan, coating the vegetables in it and cook for 1 minute. Add the brandy and stir for two more minutes. Add in the stock, minced thyme leaves, another teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer for 10 mins. Add in the half and half, milk, parsley, and check seasoning for taste. Don't boil it again once you add the dairy, just keep it at a nice low heat.
Serve it hot with a sprinkle of parsley, and an extra tsp of brandy drizzled on top just before serving, if desired. The crusty bread alongside it is optional, but strongly encouraged.
Serves about 4 to 5 dinner portions or 7-8 starter portions. Reheats on the stovetop beautifully.
This recipe is adapted from this Ina Garten recipe.