Cream of mushroom soup often relies on a lot more than just cream and mushrooms. Recipes call in everything from onions and garlic to chicken stock and wine—and don’t get me started on the herbs. All of these ingredients are great, but are they necessary? Turns out, no.
In this Big Little Recipe, fresh creminis (also sold as baby bellas), dried shiitakes, and heavy cream yield umami-rich flavor and a silky, lush texture. I like creminis for their meaty flavor and reasonable cost, but you can use white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, or another variety that’s calling your name. Just try to avoid fresh shiitakes, which would make the soup more one-note in flavor.
Important in every recipe but especially important here: Adjust the salt to taste. Because this ingredient list is so sparse, the salt is key in making the mushrooms taste mushroom-y and the cream taste creamy.
Now, if you’re thinking: Who knew mushroom stock was so easy? I want to make this all the time. Great! Put it toward minestrone or miso soup. Or add a splash to simmering tomato sauce for bonus umami.
I like to serve this with warm crusty bread and a brightly dressed salad (a lemon vinaigrette would be nice). It would also be great with a gooey grilled cheese or some sautéed greens topped with crunchy bread crumbs. The recipe also doubles easily if you want leftovers for the week. —Emma Laperruque
Combine 3 cups water and the dried shiitakes in a small pot and set on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil, cook for 5 minutes, then cut the heat.
Add the butter to a wide, high-sided saucepan and set on the stove over medium heat. As soon as that’s melted, add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mushrooms are sticking to the bottom and deeply browning. (At first, they’ll release a lot of liquid, but don’t worry, it’ll evaporate.)
Season the browned mushrooms with salt and pepper, and stir. Remove a heaping ½ cup mushrooms and set aside on a plate (these will become a garnish for the soup). Now add the cream to the saucepan and scrape up the browned bits at the bottom. Simmer for a few minutes until the cream turns the color of chocolate milk.
Add the cream and mushrooms to a blender, along with the soaked dried shiitakes, and mushroom broth. (Heads up: There might be some grit at the bottom of the pot with the mushroom broth. I find the easiest way to avoid this in the soup is to pour the liquid very slowly into the blender through a fine mesh sieve—the grit should hang back with the last splash of liquid, so just don’t pour that in.)
With the keyhole of the blender lid left open and a kitchen towel held firmly on top, blend on high speed until very, very smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. If you’d like it thinner, just add a small splash of water, cream, or both.
Serve the soup hot with the browned mushrooms sprinkled on top, plus a drizzle of cream if you want.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.