Cook date: October 9, 2020.
For the first time in months I have a cooking post that does not include tofu, a grill, or my Instant Pot. It is meatless – but not vegetarian. With the changeover to Fall I broke out Old Blue for this wonderful comfort food.
Back on March 15, 2020 I blogged about a Pasta Bolognese dish I made from a recipe I found by Amanda Biddle on her Striped Spatula blog. It was delicious and brought my quest for the perfect Italian meat sauce to an end. The burgeoining COVID-19 pandemic caused us to cancel the dinner party we had set up to share that dinner. I wrote in that blog post that we’d be quarantined “for a few weeks”. Seven months – and counting – later we know how that turned out.
At any rate, I started following Amanda and for St. Patrick’s Day two days later I used her recipe for corned beef and cabbage. I’ve been keeping my eye on her site for another recipe. As COVID starts to raise its head again, and the United States political situation being what it is in the run up to our election, everyone I know is stressed, on edge, or depressed. Although necessary, remote schooling is tough for students, parents and teachers. It all adds up to a need for comfort food and the Striped Spatula cream of mushroom soup along with her homemade croutons was the perfect treatment.
Along with a pound of assorted mushrooms – we didn’t find a lot of variety in the store – the recipe uses 4 cups of chicken stock. It may be that the homemade stock kicked this recipe up to another level. Usually I made 3 quarts of chicken stock at a time. Three pounds of chicken bones – leftovers from previous cooked chickens or chicken wings – 3 quarts of water, a quartered onion or two, 2 roughly chopped carrots and 1 of celery – a heaping teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves and 2 barely smashed cloves of garlic and cook in the pressure cooker under high pressure for an hour. On my last batch I used almost 4 pounds of chicken parts to 3 quarts of water and got a very silky, gelatinous stock. I used 3 cups of that along with a cup of water to round out the quart of liquid.
Amanda says that prep time is 10 minutes. She must be a speedy cook; it took me about 30 minutes to slice the mushroom, dice the onion, and strip the thyme leaves from their stems (not shown – it’s just out of the picture on the left – and measure out everything else. No worries.
It’s time to get cooking. I loved watching the transformation of this dish over the next hour. Sweat – don’t sauté – the onions for about 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and stir until they give up their liquid.
And the flour and stir everything together for a minute or two. Then deglaze the pan with the sherry. Use real sherry or dry white wine; that “cooking sherry” in the store is really just salt and chemicals. When the alcohol burns off add the chicken broth and thyme leaves. Because I used homemade chicken stock that is extremely low salt, I added some kosher salt at this point. If you are using canned stock – even low sodium style – you likely won’t need to add salt.
Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. I stirred quite a bit at first to blend in the flour. As the simmering progresses, the soup begins to become creamier.
I tasted along the way and was delighted with the taste. When the simmering is done, transfer some of the soup to a blender, whirl it and return to the pot.
Just before serving, add the cream and stir to combine.
I also wanted to prepare Amanda’s homemade garlicky croutons. Earlier in the day while I was running errands, Carla cut up most of a loaf of French Batard bread into pieces. As the soup progressed, we make up a concoction of butter, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
Melt the butter and add the olive oil in a small pan.
Add the chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil then remove from heat to let the garlic steep for 20 minutes.
Pour the oil/butter combination through a fine mesh strainer to remove the garlic chunks. Press gently to get all that oil and butter out.
Toss the bread with the butter/oil.
Bake in a 350° degree oven for about 20 minutes turning the croutons once. Keep an eye on them: we want them crispy but not burnt.
Carla also made a salad for a soup and salad dinner. Plus we wanted another dish for the croutons!
Dinner is served
I listen to the Dan Patrick Show (sports radio) that has a play-of-the-day segment; the lead-in includes a man yelling “Oh my goodness!” That’s exactly what I thought of when digging into this soup. I asked Carla: “4 stars?” She replied: “5!”.
The only change I’d make is to start the croutons much earlier – and make a double batch. They can be done and cooling before starting the soup. Trying to do both at the same time kept me hopping. Amanda’s recipe says it serves 4-6. We’ll barely get 4 full deep bowls of soup from the recipe for a main course. Six would work if using the soup as a starter.
Rating: ★★★★★. The coveted and rare full 5 stars. There is a huge payoff for a few ingredients and less than 2 hours of your time. Go for it.