Saturday, November 22, 2014

Woodsy Mushroom Bisque

A perfect first course for winter holiday meals or great for lunch with a salad, this soup is nothing like the canned mushroom soup we all grew up with. In fact that mushroom soup is most often used as an ingredient in recipes and really is not suitable for regular consumption on its own.

Julian's Woodsy Mushroom Bisque with Salad
Perfect on a Cold Autumn Day
My first truly great mushroom soup came from the chef at the Fairmont Chicago where each fall we would hold a board meeting. The chef offered up the soup and thereafter we requested it be served each year long after it was not part of the regular menu options. Thankfully he gladly complied and since then I've tried to replicate that wonderful, woodsy dish.

Cremini, White Button, Shitake
Preferred Mushroom Combination
The key to really good mushroom soup is of course plenty of the right mushrooms and not so much cream as to overpower their subtle flavor. So imagine my delight when Cook's Illustrated published their version of "Best Mushroom Bisque" and it turned out to be almost identical to the soup I enjoyed at the Fairmont. So I've abandoned my own recipe in favor of this one and provide it to you below, mostly as published. My only suggested modification is that I prefer my soup to have a bit of mushroom texture, so instead of transferring it to a blender as directed (for a completely smooth finish) I use my stick blender in the pot to get the desired result. I leave it to you to decide what final texture you prefer.

1 pound white mushrooms
8 ouces cremini/brown button/baby bella mushrooms
8 ounces shitake mushrooms
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small shallot/onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons dry sherry/vermouth/white wine
4 cups water
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon lemon juice
chopped chives for garnish (optional)
sour cream for garnish (optional)

Wash and cut off tough bottom-end stems of mushrooms. Place mushrooms in a microwave safe bowl and toss with salt. Cover and microwave for 12 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes, until mushrooms have released their liquid and reduced to about one-third their orignal volume. Transfer mushrooms to colander and drain over a bowl to collect the juices.

Heat oil in a large Dutch Oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are browned and starting to stick to the bottom of the pot, about 8 minutes. Add shallot/onion, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook stirring occasionally until shallot/onion is softened about 2 more minutes. Add sherry/wine and cook until evavporated. Stir in reserved mushroom liquid and cook, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Stir in water and broth and bring to a simmer (low boil). Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

Puree the soup in the pot using a stick blender for a more course texture or transfer in batches to a traditional blender to puree until very smooth (blending 2 minutes per batch. Return to pot.)

Wisk cream and egg yolks together in a medium bowl. Stirring slowly and constantly, add 2 cups soup to cream mixture. Stirring constantly, slowly pour cream mixture into the hot soup. Heat gently, stirring constnatly, until soup is 165F degrees. Do not overheat. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chives and/or a dollop of sour cream for garnish.

The French "liaison" of egg yolks and cream give
the soup it's silky texture.

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