Soup’s On!

Believe it or not, fall is upon us. For some reason I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around this fact this year. Like, I know the weather is cooling off (I love it) as evidenced by the fact that the evenings are finally cool enough to necessitate building a fire in our patio fire pit (rather than just staring at each other across the way as the condensation runs down our beer bottles), but yet I’m still pulling flip flops and whites and pastels out of my closet as acceptable attire for work. I see that it is getting darker earlier, but I don’t know–something just hasn’t yet clicked.

Anyhow, regardless of whether I am ready, fall is here, and that means the start of my one soup per week project. As I began to discuss in a previous post, I’m making one soup per week in order to:

1. increase my soup repertoire
2. consistently create something with enough leftovers for lunch later in the week (or to be frozen for later use or for gifts?)
3. stop throwing away celery and carrots which I buy in bunches because I need 1-2 stalks or 1-2 carrots for some other recipe (tell me I’m not the only one this happens to. anyone? anyone?)

Despite the convenience of today’s tetra-pak boxed soups, it’s not like I haven’t made soup before. Indeed, last winter introduced me to sweet-potato chorizo soup, potato-leek soup, crab and corn chowder, mushroom-barley soup, and even oyakodon. There’s something rather poetic about making a soup: the rhythmic chopping of celery, carrots, and onions for the mirepoix – even saying mirepoix is poetic – the steady sizzle of vegetables in the hot pot and aroma of warming garlic, the pleasant bubbling of hot stock, the slurp of the soup as it slinks from the ladle to the bowl, and the pattern of blowing cool air across the surface of the soup in the spoon alternating with gentle sips so as not to burn the tongue. Don’t you feel warmer already?

My goal in this project is to make one different soup per week for every week of fall and winter this year. (And if we’re not too sick of soup by the time spring comes, we might sneak in a few early spring soups as well). That means at least 26 soups! I’m not yet sure where this will take me–I plan to consult many of the hidden soup recipes in my ever-growing cookbook collection, look to local flavors for inspiration, and, hopefully, discover my own signature soup. I’ll report back with recipes, tips, and maybe even some input from Alex (are you placing bets on how long he’ll last before declaring he’s tired of soup?)

So to celebrate the start of soup season, I bring you two soups this week: today, Cream of Mushroom (the second easiest soup in the book) and tomorrow, Chicken Noodle (as requested from last week’s catch-up post).

Cream of Mushroom Soup (slightly modified from Julia Child‘s recipe)
Yum Factor: Alex – 8, Jessalyn – 8

– 1 liter beef stock (note that Julia recommends chicken stock, but I had beef, so that’s what I used)
1. Add stock to a saucepan and get it to a boil so that it’s hot when you’re ready to use it. Which is sooner than you might think. 

– 1 pound mushrooms, stems removed and chopped, caps sliced thinly (I used creminis, but encourage you to use your favorite combination of mushroom varieties; probably do want to have at least some button or creminis though, otherwise you’ll have a cream of wild mushroom soup)
2. You can use the time you’re waiting for the stock to boil to prep your mushrooms. 

– 1/4 of a large onion, minced
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 3 tablespoons flour
3. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onions and cook slowly 8-10 minutes. You don’t want them to be browned. Add the flour and stir to combine for another 3 minutes or so. 

– fresh thyme or parsley
– small bay leaf 

4. Add the boiling stock and stir to blend well with the floured onions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the chopped mushroom stems and a good sprinkling of thyme (Julia says parsley, but I didn’t have any so I used thyme). 

5. Simmer 20 minutes, partially covered. After 20 minutes, strain the broth from the rest of the ingredients, and return the broth to the pot.

Essentially, what you’re doing here is making mushroom stock so that the soup has an extra mushroomy flavor. Though I’ve not tried it, I wonder if you wanted to skip a step, whether the straining might be avoided if you were to use an immersion blender to make everything smooth? It would definitely help add a little more thickness to the finished soup though admittedly may not be as classical.

– 2 tablespoons butter
– 1 teaspoon lemon juice
6. Melt the butter in a saucepan. When it is foaming, add the sliced mushroom caps, lemon juice, and a dash of salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. When you lift the lid, they’ll be softened but not deeply colored. Add to the mushroom both in the big pot.

– 2 egg yolks
– generous 1/2 cup heavy cream
7. Meanwhile, beat your yolks and cream together in a big mixing bowl. With a ladle in one hand and a whisk in the other, slowly ladle the hot soup into the egg/cream mixture while whisking said mixture with your other hand. Here, you’re bringing the temperature of the eggs up towards the temperature of the soup so that it can all be added together. If you don’t add the soup slowly, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your soup…not exactly what we’re going for here.

8. When you’ve successfully ladled 1-2 cups of hot soup into your egg mixture, carefully pour the whole thing back into the large soup pot and continue to heat through for another 3-4 minutes.

9. Turn off the heat and add another tablespoon of butter, if you wish, for an extra silky consistency.

Ahh. This cream of mushroom soup was surprisingly light but still full of hearty flavor–not at all thick and sludgy like the condensed mushroom soups you might occasionally use in a casserole. I garnished mine with a snipping of chives and some sauteed shiitake mushrooms. What’s that? You don’t see the shiitakes? That’s because this soup was so much lighter than I thought it would be that it wasn’t even thick enough to allow thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms to float on top. So they basically sank to the bottom where they nevertheless added some extra mushroom flavor to our bowls.

Also, because I used beef stock, the color of my soup is likely quite a bit darker and richer than it would be if I had used chicken stock. To be honest, I’m not sure why I went with the beef–maybe I was thinking of French onion soup, which is traditionally beef stock-based, and knowing how well mushrooms and onions and mushrooms and steak and onions and steak go together, I guess I just had beef on my mind. But as I’ll talk about tomorrow in my anatomy of a soup post, you could really use any stock you like, even vegetable.

So what do you think? Is this a souper idea or what? Are there any soups that intrigue you that you think I should attempt over the course of the next few months? Any secret family soup recipes that you are trying to decipher? How do you like your soup? Thick and chunky? Smooth and creamy? Garnished with a lot of stuff? Served in a large mug? Do tell.

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4 thoughts on “Soup’s On!

  1. […] you may recall, part of the reasoning behind my soup project is to use up the carrots and celery that otherwise sit around in my fridge, sad and dejected (and […]

  2. […] week’s soup is Hamburger Soup from the Reagan […]

  3. […] autumnal soups in the coming weeks. After all, lest you forget, we’re still in the middle of my soup project!) And yes, Alex made his skeptical face when I told him this was to be our dinner this evening, but […]

  4. […] Potato and Chorizo Soup Continuing on with my soup project with this post: pimp your Thanksgiving dinner, Part […]

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