Sunday, May 30, 2010

How to Make Mushroom Soup like a Polish Granddaughter (swag method)

I mentioned the Polish Deli in Norwalk in an earlier post. It's still in business and better than ever. Ken and I went there  a few weekends ago for lunch, and I noticed that they had dried crepe mushrooms on sale. 

Growing up, Christmas Eve was traditionally spent at my Polish Grandparents, and one of my favorite food items was the mushroom soup. It was very rich in flavor, and served over thick mashed potatoes. Good hearty peasant food bursting with mushroom flavor, and filling without being too heavy. I'd thought about making it for a while, then my aunt told me I needed a source for dried mushrooms. Bingo!

I saw the mushrooms and asked the proprietor if she knew a good recipe for mushroom soup. She laughed and went on to ring up the next customer. Then, while we were eating, she motioned me over, "Come here, quick lesson." I left with a .7-oz package of dried crepe (also known as porcini) mushrooms  and a head full of advice. (Martha would have you use shitake and buttons as well, but a) this isn't a Japanese recipe and b) my sweetie doesn't like cooked button shrooms)

First off, I reconstituted the shrooms in boiling water. I had about a cup of dried mushrooms, which were very fragrant when I opened the package. I figured 2 cups of boiling water would work.  I covered the shrooms with the water and let them soak for a couple hours. I have no scientific basis for doing so in this proportion, bear in mind. A quick taste of the mushroom liquor told me I was on the right track. Delicious. 

Next up, a little richness but not too much, and a little aromatic. I sautéed one finely minced garlic clove in about a tablespoon of unsalted butter. Normally, I consider garlic a vegetable, but I'm (slowly) learning to back off a bit and use it as an enhancement in some dishes, like this one.

To this pot, I added 1.5 cups of organic beef broth. I actually goofed at the store and did not get the low-sodium version, so I decided no more salt was to be added. I poured in the mushrooms and the mushroom broth. Next, about six grinds of black pepper (the Lithuanian grandmother is responsible for my love of black pepper, but I digress). I hoped this amount of beef broth wouldn't overwhelm the mushrooms, and my SWAG (aka some wild-assed guessing) was right on the money. I added about a tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley, that may have been a bit too much, and because I wanted a little more freshness, a pinch of thyme. I simmered for about an hour to let the flavors blend. 

Next up, preparing the rest of dinner. Mashed potatoes for the soup to go over. I used small reds, and left the skins on for reasons of texture, taste and laziness. I hate peeling potatoes. In retrospect, next time I make this, I'm going to go for potatoes I peel. Maybe some Yukon Gold.

Some protein as well. Out of my fridge came some very nice pork chops. I lightly brushed them with olive oil and covered them with a 50/50 mix of panko and a spice blend called, of all things, Gobs of Garlic, which you can purchase here. Be warned, their blends run a little salty, hence the panko to cut it. Bake chops at 375 F for about thirty minutes, turning over halfway through.

For greens, a fresh salad, heavy on the frisee, dressed with a little olive oil and some white wine vinegar.

I stirred in half a cup of heavy whipping cream into the soup before serving it over the mashed potatoes. I wanted a bit more thyme, Ken thought it was delicious as it was, so I just added it to my bowl. I was really happy with the flavor. Without the cream, the soup was earthier than a bad Bordeaux, but with it, there was the earthiness of the mushrooms and the smoothness of the cream, plus the thyme and parsley.

Then, if you're me, forget, once again to take photos of the finished product. I'll get better, I promise. I served this with some hard cider, but I think beer or a full-bodied white would work just fine as well.

Now here's a question: do I enter this into Epicurious' recipe contest? Or do I use my chili recipe? Let's hear from you!


  1. I totally agree. Most of the time, I like the texture of potato skins on mash, but on this, I think it's far betterer without.

  2. Oh, yes, definitely enter it.

    I use button, crimini and when a friend's mom is lucky and I'm visiting at the right time, fresh-gathered morels.

    Chicken or veal stock, or equal beef/chicken, sauteed briefly in olive oil.

    I'm going to go look for a source of porcini, however, and give this a whirl around the floor. With luck, it's toes won't be too bruised.