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Grab your spoon and dig into this hearty, earthy roasted mushroom soup that’s well seasoned and satisfying.
I learned quite a few things in culinary school: proper knife skills, the importance of organization and mise en place and that kidney is probably, no definitely, my least favorite food. But the most important lesson was perhaps the most basic: how to season with salt. It’s one of those lessons that I assumed I didn’t need to be taught. Of course you add a little salt to to every recipe…all this money for schooling and you’re going to tell me about salt?! Yes, and I’m grateful for it everyday.
are addicted watch all of the culinary competition shows on TV as I do (with Top Chef being the gold standard) you often see these crazy talented chefs being sent home for a frustratingly simple reason: under seasoned food. All the braising, sautéing and whipping in the world can’t make up for lack of salt. But it’s not just the addition of salt to a dish that makes a difference, it’s the when.
I was fortunate enough to have a very intense, very knowledgeable instructor for two courses when I attended the Institute of Culinary Education. I had heard stories about Chef Ted, namely that he was tough and even a little intimidating. The stories proved true, but in the best possible way. Not only had he worked under some of the most influential chefs of our time in his extensive career, he possessed a deep knowledge and understanding of food and technique that inspired his students. Was he tough? Yep. A little scary sometimes? Uh huh. But he garnered respect in the kitchen and was a born teacher.
One of those lessons that he would repeat daily was to season, taste, season, taste as you prepared your dish. How do you know if the dish is properly balanced if you haven’t dipped a spoon in and tested it? Basic right? But so many times we follow a recipe blindly trusting that the writer did all that work for us.
Salting throughout the cooking process builds layers of flavor, penetrating each ingredient. I always keep a little dish of kosher salt next to the stove and each time I add something to the pot, I sprinkle in a pinch of salt. Tasting as you go is equally important. Maybe the dish needs a pinch more, or maybe you need to back off a bit. You learn to trust your palate and in the end you’ll be left with a dish that is bright and flavorful, not salty.
Think of the best restaurant meal you ever had…no salt shakers on the table right? That’s because the chef had carefully seasoned each dish and an extra shake of salt would be too much, just as too little would result in a bland, uninteresting dish. That’s not to say specialty finishing salts don’t have their place in the world, but that’s a discussion for another day. I think of salt as kitchen pixie dust, a little sprinkling that magically enhances the most basic ingredients and makes them shine.
So today we’ll put this theory to the test with a very simple recipe for mushroom soup. I use a mixture of wild mushrooms and I roast them with fresh thyme and garlic to bring out their earthy flavor. I reserve a handful of the roasted mushrooms on the side before cooking it all up in a pot and pureeing it into a smooth, creamy soup. After you ladle the soup into bowls, a few of those reserved mushrooms gets sprinkled on top to add texture to the dish. But here’s the most important thing to remember…season as you go.
So let’s break down the when to season. Spread the mushrooms on the sheet pan and grab a pinch of salt in your fingertips and season high. Meaning hold your hand several inches over the pan and allow the salt to fall in an even layer over the mushrooms. This ensures that the salt doesn’t become too concentrated in one area. After those mushrooms are roasted and browned, taste one. Now it’s time to combine it all in the pot. Start by sauteeing the shallots and season them as they cook with a pinch of salt. Now we’ll add in the sherry, mushrooms, roasted garlic and stock. Keep tasting and seasoning until those ingredients sing. Blend and then stir in the herbs. Now taste. The soup should taste of earthy mushrooms, toasty garlic and a hint of nutty tanginess from the sherry. Not there yet? Try one more pinch. And if you’re feeling decadent, whisk in a splash of cream.
Now grab your ladle and scoop some of this hearty soup into a bowl. Top with a few of those reserved roasted mushrooms, sit back and enjoy. This is simple, rustic dish with robust flavors made all the better with a little kitchen pixie dust. And don’t thank me for it, thank Chef Ted.
- 30 oz wild mushroom mix sliced (cremini, oyster, shiitake)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and pepper
- 3 whole garlic cloves ends trimmed but peels left on
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 large shallots minced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/3 cup dry sherry
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 tsp fresh thyme minced
- 1/2 cup heavy cream optional
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line two sheet trays with nonstick foil.
Scatter sliced mushrooms, whole garlic cloves and thyme on the two lined sheet trays. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast for about 15 mins until golden brown.
While mushrooms are roasting, place a medium pot on the stove over medium heat and add the butter.
Add the shallots to the melted butter, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden, stirring frequently.
Remove the mushrooms from the oven, discard thyme sprigs and squeeze the garlic out of the peels. Reserve 1/2 cup mushrooms and add the remaining mushrooms and garlic to the pot.
Add sherry and cook until slightly reduced, about 2-3 mins.
Add the stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 15 mins.
Puree using an immersion blender or in a blender in batches until smooth. Add 1 tsp of thyme and the cream if using and stir well to combine. Season to taste.
Ladle into bowls and top with a spoon of the reserved mushrooms.