Brain’s on Shrooms.

27 Oct

2:30 AM here, and I just finished making mushroom soup.  Oh, college sleep schedules.  One minute, you’re sleep-deprived as a coke-fiend-rockstar-on-tour, and then suddenly you find getting 12 hours of sleep two days in a row put you a bit too far ahead.  And then, there you are, making mushroom soup in the wee hours on a rainy Ithaca night.

creamy maitake soup

I made this soup because the other day, I could not convince my friend to buy maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms at the grocery store.  She didn’t think she would be able to cook them before they went bad.  But, because I love maitakes and believe everyone in the world must enjoy them in abundance, I bought some.  And I told her I’d cook them for her.

So that’s what I chose to do on my night of raging insomnia: make mushroom soup with my little hunk of maitake mushrooms.  I only had a few ounces, so I made a small portion, but I fashioned the soup after my grandma’s mushroom soup.  You see, every year we have Thanksgiving at Grandma’s, she prepares this mushroom soup for the apepetizer.  Now, my grandma will tell you she doesn’t particularly enjoy cooking.  In light of this detail, I was always amazed by her soup.  It was so good.  Granted, after a bowl of it, making one’s way through a Thanksgiving meal was a true, grueling challenge.  But still, the soup was damn good.

When I wanted to make the soup today, I couldn’t remember exactly how my grandma makes the soup.  However, I remembered my mom telling me how easy it was–something along the lines of “mushrooms are pretty much all that goes into it besides a shit-load of cream.”  This made sense–a simple recipe (appropriate if my grandma wants to spend less time in the kitchen) with awesome ingredients (mushrooms and cream–two of my favorite food groups…um…foods, that is) could be the recipe for success.

Ultimately, I came up with something close to Grandma’s soup.  Although she uses baby bella mushrooms, I used maitake, and I also added a dash of star anise to amp up the umami from the shrooms.  The pork stock I used (instead of chicken stock, which I believe also goes into Grandma’s) was super-reduced, and that added a silky mouthfeel to the soup.  I hope you will use this recipe to take out your family and friends before the main course this Thanksgiving!

Grandma’s Mushroom Soup, Evolved (serves 1…double, triple, or whatever as needed)

1/2 c maitake mushrooms, separated into “leaves” (don’t chop; just pull apart)

2 T butter or pork fat

salt

star anise, ground

1.5 T flour

2/3 c heavy cream

3/4 c pork stock, super-reduced (a normal stock reduced 4X; use low-sodium if store-bought)

1) Sautee the mushrooms in fat in a hot pan until brown and tender.

2) Add flour and stir mushrooms to coat.  Cook over low to medium heat until flour is toasted.

3) Add cream and stock; stir to incorporate roux substance.

4) Simmer until soup is desired consistency; season to taste with salt and star anise.

5) EAT IT.  THEN GO CURL UP IN A BALL and sleep.  Then wake up for turkey.

mmmm...

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