Monday, March 21, 2011

Creamy Mushroom Soup with Thyme

I think the fact that I eat mushrooms at all must astound and confuse my family (just ask my mom about "the mushroom incident").  I used to wince just at their mention - and if I found a mushroom hiding in a salad or on a pizza, there was a strong possibility I would give up on that meal altogether.

So how did I grow to love mushrooms so much that they ended up the star ingredient of this simple soup?  I think it started when a group of coworkers decided we should share a mushroom and caramelized onion pizza at a local restaurant.  Not wanting to complain, I took a bite of the small slice I had taken - but the paper-thin slices of cremini complemented the sweet unctuousness of the onions so well, they began to prove their culinary mettle.

Slowly but surely, mushrooms found their way into my kitchen - first, a few were sprinkled on our homemade pizzas (the "so few that you barely notice they're there" technique), in philly cheesesteaks (because I'll eat anything if there's enough beef involved), deep-fried and dunked in creamy garlic dressing (the "smother them in other stuff" method), and slowly they worked their way out of second-class status and into our regular ingredient list.

This soup used up the last few cremini and shiitake mushrooms that were remaining from other meals, but you can use any combination you choose.  However, white button mushrooms may not provide the same depth of flavor that some bolder varieties possess.  A few sprigs of thyme and a splash of cream make this the perfect soup to enjoy while waiting for the snow to give way to spring.

Creamy Mushroom Soup with Thyme
Serves 4

1/2 lb. mixed mushrooms, cleaned and very thinly sliced
1/4 c. finely diced sweet onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 T. butter
4 c. unsalted vegetable or chicken stock
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme; or 1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 c. heavy cream
Salt and Pepper

In a medium saucepot, melt butter over medium-low heat.  When it begins to foam, add the onion, garlic, and a small pinch of salt, and sweat until translucent, about 8 minutes or so.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms soften and reduce, another 7-8 minutes.  Add the whole sprigs of thyme (or the dried thyme leaves) and the stock, along with another dash of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.  Let the soup come to a simmer and bubble away on the stovetop for 10-15 minutes.  Then, add the heavy cream.  Bring the soup back to a simmer, then taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Remove the thyme sprigs before serving.  Serve soup with additional fresh thyme and/or fresh pepper.

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