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Author Notes: This soup is built on a mushroom preparation I’ve had in my arsenal for years, a combination of dried and fresh mushrooms cooked down with seasonings until they are soft and coated in a silky glaze. I usually use this mixture to sauce pasta or top crostini, but I decided to soup-ify it by combining it with a shiitake and Parmesan broth, which came together while I was cooking down the mushrooms. I always save and freeze Parmesan rinds, shiitake stems, and leek tops, and I figured the combination would produce a broth that would complement and enhance the mushrooms’ earthy flavor. We loved this soup in its more rustic form (unblended), but for fun I also decided to press some through a fine mesh strainer to make it smoother. I poured that batch into shot glasses, which would be a great way to serve it as a first course or at a holiday gathering. —lastnightsdinner
Makes one big pot, which can serve a few or many
For the Parmesan-shiitake broth:
- 1 cup shiitake stems, cleaned
- 1 Parmesan rind, about 1-inch wide and 2 to 3 inches in length
- 1 leek top (the green part farthest from the white bottom), about 3 inches in length, rinsed well
- 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat, then simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove the solids from the broth (use your fingers or a utensil, or strain the broth through a sieve) and discard. Use broth immediately, or cool and refrigerate (for up to 1 week) or freeze (for up to several months) for future use.
For the velvety mushroom soup:
- 1 cup dried mixed wild mushrooms
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 pound cremini or white button mushrooms (or use shiitake stems)
- 1 ounce wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, oyster, maitake, chanterelles, etc.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup diced shallot or onion
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup sweet red vermouth
- 6 cups Parmesan-shiitake broth or prepared vegetable or mushroom stock
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- Soak the dried mushrooms in the boiling water until they are soft. Lift the softened mushrooms from the liquid and gently squeeze them out, reserving the soaking liquid. Strain the liquid through a coffee filter to remove any grit, and set the soaking liquid aside. Roughly chop the softened mushrooms and set aside.
- Remove any soil or dirt from the fresh mushrooms with a soft brush or cloth. Trim the bottoms of the cremini or button mushrooms and slice them lengthwise. If using shiitakes, remove the stems and slice the caps. If using oyster, maitake, or chanterelles, gently tear them into small pieces.
- Combine the butter and olive oil in a very large wide skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the shallot and a pinch of salt and cook until softened and translucent.
- Add the softened dried mushrooms and stir well to coat them with the butter and oil. Cook for a few minutes, add the fresh mushrooms and another pinch of salt, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to coat them with oil.
- Allow the fresh mushrooms to cook over medium heat, uncovered, until they are soft, shrinking, and beginning to brown.
- Clear a spot in the bottom of the skillet and add the tomato paste, allowing it to cook for a minute or two before stirring it through the mushrooms.
- Continue to cook until the mushrooms are browned at the edges, then add the vermouth, stirring through and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- When most of the liquid has evaporated, add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Cook down until the mushrooms are glazed with the reduced liquid, stirring occasionally.
- Heat the broth in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add the mushroom mixture to the hot broth. Purée with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor until smooth.
- Add the sherry vinegar and thyme and stir through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.