Creamy Mushroom Soup

A while back Paul signed up for a sample issue of Cook’s Country magazine, published by Christopher Kimball, the creator of America’s Test Kitchen programming (and king of the bowtie/suspenders look). Since receiving this issue, it has made its way from coffee table to kitchen counter to dining room table several times. Paul diligently made the White Chicken Chili and the mushroom sloppy joes (both receiving rave reviews) before the holidays, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I flipped through and had a hankering for their mushroom soup. After a weekend of birthday celebrations in Green Bay, tonight’s dinner was hearty and welcoming, prepping us for the long week ahead.

As the recipe states, they were looking for a hearty and velvety soup – bearing no resemblance to mushroom soup in a can. After several test runs, their final recipe called for three pounds of mushrooms – THREE POUNDS! That’s enough to get stares from the produce manager at Pic ‘N Save. And at $3.29 a pound, that’s enough to make me question the quantity so this better be worth it. Fortunately, this recipe didn’t have a ton of ingredients that my sweet stock boy didn’t already have on hand at home. So, mushrooms, leeks and half & half were all that I needed on a grocery run. Three pounds…

The first step was cleaning the leeks – a lengthy process due to the sand and dirt that collects between each layer. However a tip provided in the recipe suggested using the salad spinner to soak, drain, and spin. Worked nicely – and I didn’t have to scrub my sink down at the end. I used my trusted Le Creuset dutch oven to cook the butter, mushrooms and leeks together, and then added the next 4 ingredients. To finish the soup, the recipe steps included pureeing. Silly me thought using the food processor would provide a satisfactory puree. Silly me, indeed. The soup was a grainy oatmealy consistency – rather disgusting to look at to be honest. I’m going to eat that? Mushroom soup is already fairly drab. So, after it was all back in the pot I took out my trusted immersion blender (to the rescue!) and was very happy with the outcome. Don’t you agree? The last photo shows the smooth buttery finish.

And… finally, to top off the soup was a tasty homemade piece of sourdough bread. The mother starter was laid to rest after the making of this bread, as it was going to be too time and flour consuming to continue its growth. Perhaps Paul will tell you about it. Perhaps he’s still trying to decide whether or not the two weeks of love and nurture he gave it was worth it. It was a perfect combination with dinner, so I would say it was worth it.

The recipe for this soup (Cook’s Country, Oct/Nov’09, p. 17):

4 T unsalted butter
3 pounds (!) white or cremini mushrooms, broken into small pieces
2 Leeks, white and light parts only, halved lengthwise and chopped
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t chopped fresh thyme
5 c beef broth
1/2 c cooking sherry
1 c half & half (original recipe called for heavy cream, but I subs. w/ H&H)
2 t lemon juice
Chopped chives for garnish

A: Melt butter in large dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until butter is golden brown and has nutty aroma, appx. 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, leeks, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper, and cook, covered, until mushrooms release their liquid, appx. 5 minutes. Remove lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, appx. 15 minutes. Remove 2/3 c mushroom mixture, chop fine, and reserve.

B: Add garlic and thyme to pot with remaining mushroom mixture and cook until fragrant, appx. 30 seconds. Stir in broth and sherry and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until mushrooms and leeks are completely tender, appx. 20 minutes.

C: Puree soup in blender (unless you want to go the extra step like I did!) until smooth. Return pureed soup to pot, stir in half & half, lemon juice, and chopped reserved mushrooms and return to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve, drizzling individual portions with additional sherry and sprinkling with chives.

P.S. THREE POUNDS? It was worth it!

Indian Monday

The Menu:

  • Salad
  • Hummus
  • Pita Bread
  • Chicken with Indian Rub

The Recipes:

First up, I used this mix as a guide and created a simple Indian Spice Rub from the menagerie of spices pictured below.

Rubbed that on some chicken breasts and mixed up some hummus, following this easy recipe from the Savory Sweet Life blog. It was so quick that the only picture I got was the final product.

That turned out delicious, although maybe a tad too garlicky.

To scoop up the hummus, I decided to try making some homemade pita bread, following the instructions in Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day.

after about one minute -- the initial puffiness

five minutes later - whoa!

The pita bread turned out GREAT! It was the easiest bread I’ve made so far. I mean, yes, there’s some rolling pin action involved, but there’s no steam in this recipe and the baking time is 5-7 minutes. I actually went ahead and made a second load of pita bread so we’ll have some extras to enjoy with the leftover hummus over the next couple of days.

The final product was a well-balanced, but relatively easy and quick dinner.

Seafood Sunday

We’ve done the butcher shop for meat before, but we’ve never really purchased seafood from a quality fresh fish shop (a fish monger?). I’ve been meaning to check out Empire Fish for a long time, and I finally did on Saturday. Awesome store really — very friendly staff and a great collection of sea critters. Lots of fresh options and some frozen stuff available too. I may have been a little over-excited though because I left with some scallops, some shrimp and a haddock filet.

All of that led to Seafood Sunday!

Using recipes from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (btw, if you don’t own this cookbook, buy it from Amazon now — at less than $24, it’s a bargain) as a guide, our lunch meal consisted of a little Ginger-Hoisin Shrimp.

On the side, we ate some more of the quinoa, and enjoyed some European Peasant Bread from the Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day book. Overall it was a tasty, speedy, albeit slightly-more-extravagant-than-your-average-noontime-meal lunch.

Then, when it came to dinner time, I put the awesome Saints victory on hold to cook up the rest of the fishy stuff. With only about a single serving each of scallops and haddock, I decided to make both. For the scallops, I pan-seared them with the lemon, shallots and capers recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. For the haddock, I kept it simple. A little salt and pepper followed by a quick dredging in some flour. That’s just basic white rice on the side.

The lemon/caper/shallot combo was a little overpowering. I think we both ended up pushing most of it to the side and focusing on the scallop-ey goodness. As for the haddock, for such a simple preparation, it was quite tasty. I mean, Kelley, who doesn’t really like fish, gave it a favorable review. I believe her words were along the lines of : “I would go to a fish fry if they used this recipe.”

Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounce keen-wah) is the seed of the Goosefoot plant. It cooks much like a grain and has a fantastic nutty flavor, with a little bit of a crunch (due to its seed nature). It’s also healthy:

The quinoa seed is high in protein, calcium and iron, a relatively good source of vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. It contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. It is exceptionally high in lysine, cystine and methionine-amino acids typically low in other grains. It is a good complement for legumes, which are often low in methionine and cystine. The protein in quinoa is considered to be a complete protein due to the presence of all 8 essential amino acids.

(from Chet Day’s Health & Beyond)

I owe this new discovery to this post on the kitchn blog, which led to a recipe for Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit, Toasted Almonds, and Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette at Fine Cooking.

Note: The picture over there looks a little different than the ones at those two links. It’s not just the Polish pottery. Those linked-to photos used red quinoa, but all I could find was the white version.

If you’ve never tried quinoa, I can highly recommend it. Try the recipe here, it’s healthy (containing not only the benefits of quinoa, but also a healthy dose of the good fats in avocado). And it’s delicious.

Next step for us is finding more quinoa recipes to try.

Finally — that fruit you see on the left side of that photo over there? That’s the fruit of the pummelo, another new food we gave a try to. It’s like a grapefruit, but has a really thick, super-spongy membrane around the fruit, and it’s nowhere near as bitter as grapefruit.