This dish is similar to a cream of mushroom soup, but without the dairy. This soup is pure mushroom, with a couple of potatoes thrown in for thickening. Served with paper-thin slices of mushroom as garnish, it makes a very elegant soup.
Each week this series will present recipes around a particular type of produce or a pantry item. This is food that is vibrant and light, full of nutrients but by no means ascetic, fun to cook and a pleasure to eat.
1 1/2 pounds white or cremini mushrooms
1/2 ounce dried mushrooms, any kind
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot or onion
3 or 4 garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce (optional)
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf and few sprigs each parsley and thyme
2 medium potatoes (5 or 6 ounces total), preferably on the starchy side (such as Yukon gold), peeled and diced
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Chopped flat-leaf parsley or slivered fresh sage leaves for garnish
1. Set aside 4 medium mushrooms for garnish. Stem the remaining mushrooms, and cut the caps into quarters. Set aside the caps, and combine the stems with the dried mushrooms in a large saucepan. Add 1 1/2 quarts water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes. Set a strainer lined with cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or paper towels over a bowl, and drain the mushrooms. Squeeze the mushrooms over the strainer to extract all of the tasty liquid remaining in them. Season the broth to taste with salt. Discard the dried mushrooms and stems.
2. Heat the olive oil (or olive oil and butter) over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot, and add the shallots or onions. Cook, stirring, until tender -- about three minutes for shallots, five for onions. Add the garlic, and stir together for about 30 seconds. Add the quartered mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender and have released a lot of juice, about 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the sherry and the soy sauce, and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Add the stock, the bouquet garni and the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer 1 hour. Remove the bouquet garni, and discard.
3. Working in small batches and covering the top of your blender tightly with a kitchen towel, puree the soup. Alternatively, use a hand blender to puree the soup in the pot. (You’ll get a smoother, more velvety texture if you use a blender.) Return to the pot, and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you wish, stir in another tablespoon of sherry.
4. Trim the mushrooms you set aside, and slice paper-thin. Toss with the lemon juice. Serve the soup, and garnish each bowl with chopped parsley or slivered sage and sliced fresh mushrooms.
Yield: Serves four.
Advance preparation: You can make this a day ahead and reheat.