“Global warming” – bad; Cream of (wild) Mushroom Soup – good
Another piece of not-exactly amazing news: being physically warmed up – by holding a hot drink, for instance – makes people feel more warmly toward others, more generous, more tolerant, while getting chilled – by holding a coldpak, for instance – has the opposite effect. You can read all about it here or here.
And then you can be sorry all over again that “global warming” has gotten established as the shorthand for catastrophic climate change. Warm is a hugely positive word, as others before me have been pointing out for some time. If you’re trying to sound the alarm about human-caused atmospheric changes that have enormous downsides (flood, drought, and biblically destructive storms, for starters), using a word that’s more or less synonymous with “good” is probably not such a great idea.
Same problem with undifferentiated “climate change,” given that – as you may have heard lately – change can be something desirable.
Do I have a solution? Not for for the main problem, and not (at least so far) for what to call it. But for the keep yourself feeling warm part, can’t beat
Cream of (wild) Mushroom Soup
Rich in flavor but comparatively light in texture, a redemption of the genre. Also – if you tweak it a bit – a redemption of any recipe that has canned cream of mushroom soup on the ingredient list.
As written, this recipe gets its wild taste from a handful of dried porcini (or morels or black trumpets, if that’s what you have). The rest of its mushroomness comes from standard white domestic mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus, champignons de Paris), which are very tasty in their own right. Should using Bill’s wild mushroom posts have put you in possession of a haul of fresh blewits or hen of the woods or porcini, by all means use them in place of some or all of the whites, but don’t omit the dried ones. The accent they add is irreplaceable.
For about 5 cups, 6 first course servings (recipe can be doubled; see note 1.):
@¾ ounce dried morels or porcini or black trumpets, a scant cup, roughly broken up.
2 tbl. butter
½ c. minced shallots
7 – 8 ounces chopped fresh mushrooms, white or brown domestic, or any meaty, firm wild variety such as blewits, hen of the woods, porcini, or – if you’re sure you know them! – the wild agarics, Agaricus capmestris, A. arvensis or A. bitorquis (rodmanii), about 2 cups
1 heaping tbl. flour
2 c. chicken broth
2 short – 5 to 7 inch – inner celery stalks, with leaves
2 large stalks of parsley
3/4 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. milk
2 tbl. dry sherry
Thickening (optional, see note 2.):
2 tbl. Butter
4 tsp. Flour
1. Put the dried mushrooms in a heatproof bowl, pour on 1 ½ c. boiling water, cover the bowl and let soak for 1 to 3 hours.
2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan or small kettle over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until they start to turn gold.
3. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook until they are softened and starting to brown.
4. Sprinkle on the tablespoon of flour and stir it in, then slowly add the broth, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Add the dried mushrooms and their liquid, celery and parsley. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and let the soup cook for 45 minutes to an hour.
5. Strain the soup. Fish out and discard the celery and parsley, then coarsely puree the mushrooms – beware of making baby food, there should be some lumps left.
6. For unthickened soup, return liquid and mushrooms to the pan. Stir in milk and cream and reheat over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add sherry, then season to taste with salt and white pepper.
7. For thickened soup, melt the butter in the soup pan over very low heat. Stir in the flour and cook the paste, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Slowly add the broth, whisking to prevent lumps, then add milk and cream and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, 10 or 15 minutes. Add the mushrooms, let simmer for a few minutes, then add sherry and salt and white pepper to taste.
Serve in heated bowls. The only garnish that doesn’t add complications is sliced mushrooms fried brown in butter and floated on top, but if you’re not up to such fussing and can’t stand that unrelieved pale beige expanse, a very small scattering of snipped chives can sneak on there without causing problems.
Note 1. To double: use twice as much of all main ingredients except celery and parsley. Thicken with 3 tablespoons each of butter and flour.
Note 2. If you don’t add thickening you’ll get the lightest, most delicate version, but it will be silky – thinner than most cream soups – and most of the mushrooms will sink to the bottom. I prefer this, but if you want something more traditionally velvety, go for the thickening.
Homemade “Canned Cream of Mushroom” for recipe use. The purchased article works because the texture is thick and the flavor condensed. To make the homemade version, follow the recipe above but use half of all the liquids.