This holiday, spent at home in Georgia, my little sister insisted that she wanted to make a recipe for mushroom soup she saw in the latest Cooks Illustrated. I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t particularly excited about it, as mushrooms are not my favorite at all. I’m really working hard on liking mushrooms, but the thought of thick meaty slices of mushroom scared me: in soup there was nothing to hide them under! Cut to Christmas dinner and I remember specifically saying “give me only a little, so I’ll have room for dinner” and then cut to me finishing that first bowl and scrambling to the pot to fill up my bowl beyond that tiny little first taste I had. Somewhere during that taste, I had somehow forgotten that I don’t like mushrooms.
Folks, this is not your average mushroom soup; in fact, it’s not what you would expect from mushroom soup at all. Instead of a heavy, thick, cream based soup that most of us are used to, this is a brothy soup that some how still tastes and feels creamy, despite having so little actual cream in it. The mushrooms and wild rice are a wonderful texture contrast to each other (chewy vs soft) and also to the broth; the lemon zest and chives add an unexpected twist of bright flavor. It’s salty and savory yet light and refreshing all at the same time. Even if you’re a little hesitant to give mushrooms such a spotlight, you should give this soup a try for a delicious surprise –and if you do love mushrooms, all the better!
Note: I couldn’t find dried shiitake mushrooms, except for in large packages that cost $12 or more. Instead I just bought 2 fresh shiitake mushrooms for a total of 60 cents and set them out on a saucer on my countertop to dry over the course of a week or so. Low tech, but it worked, so I can’t complain. To turn the mushrooms to dust, CI suggests a spice grinder or a blender. I have neither of those, so I used a flat nutmeg grater to great effect. My boyfriend used the top of my pepper grinder to grind up the little bits that were too little to grate without scraping my fingers.
Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup
Barely Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, Jan 2019
- 1/4 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed and grated to powder (see note above)
- 4 1/4 cups water
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 garlic clove, peeled, plus 4 cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 cup wild rice
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound white mushrooms, sliced 1/4″ thick (you can buy two bags of Trader Joe’s presliced mushrooms)
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 2/3 cup dry sherry or dry vermouth
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Set oven to 375 degrees and while it’s heating, bring the water, thyme, bay leaf, garlic clove, 3/4 tsp salt, pepper, and wild rice to a boil in an ovenproof dutch oven.
- Add the wild rice, bring back to a boil, then cover and move the pot to the oven to bake for 40 minutes (or until rice is tender and chewy).
- Over a large mixing bowl, pour the dutch oven’s contents into a fine mesh sieve. Pull out the bay leaf, thyme stem and garlic clove and discard. Pour the rice liquid into a 4 cup measuring cup and add water until you have 3 cups of liquid total.
- Put the now-empty dutch oven on the stove and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, 4 minced garlic cloves, 3/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and tomato paste and let brown, stirring every once in a while. I thought it was taking too long and realized my heat was too low– as soon as I turned the heat up, I got the deep brown bits (called fond) on the bottom of the pan I was looking for.
- Add the sherry (or vermouth, which is what I substituted) and scrape up the brown fond on the bottom of the pan and continue cooking until almost all of the liquid gone from the pan.
- Add ground shiitake mushrooms, rice liquid, chicken broth, and soy sauce and bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat so the pot comes back down to a simmer and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the corn starch and 1/4 cup of water until dissolved, then stir into the soup pot and let cook for 2 or 3 more minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the rice, cream, chives, and lemon zest. Serve hot and enjoy!