Fall is finally here and with the weather cooling down, I had a craving for something warm, rich and soul-satisfying. Making a soup can involve a lot of time, particularly one where you need to make a stock or a roux. This is the case with cream of mushroom soup, which usually needs both a vegetable stock and a roux to thicken it.
Thinking there had to be a faster way to make a delicious cream of mushroom soup from scratch, I started thinking about how it could be done. Vegetable or chicken stock is usually used as the main liquid for a cream of _____ soup to impart umami. The problem with this is that because stock isn’t very creamy, you then have to finish the soup with a concentrated dairy product like cream or sour cream to give it body and richness as milk would just be too watery.
The thing is, if you properly brown the shallots and mushrooms first, they have plenty of umami without the assistance of stock. Milk also contains a ton of amino acids that impart the taste of umami, so by substituting milk for the stock, it not only reduces the level of effort to make this, it also eliminates the need to add cream.
As for thickening the soup, making roux isn’t hard, but it requires another pot and some additional time. I took some inspiration from Pappa al Pomodoro and went with something most people already have in their kitchens to thicken the mushroom soup: stale bread. Aside from being pretty ubiquitous, the browned flour in the crust adds a marvelous nutty flavor to the soup.
Finally, cream of mushroom soup is often pureed, but personally I like having a more chunky soup. That’s why I didn’t puree this. That said, if you like your mushroom soup smoother, you can put some or all of the soup in the blender to puree it.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1.6 ounces shallots, minced (1 medium shallot)
- 8.5 ounces button mushrooms, sliced (1 package mushrooms)
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 ounces stale crusty bread, cut into small cubes
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until fragrant and translucent.
- Add the mushrooms and salt and continue to sauté until the shallots are caramelized and the mushrooms are well browned.
- Add the thyme and white wine and boil until there is no liquid left.
- Add the milk and bread, and then turn down the heat to medium low. Simmer uncovered, stirring regularly until the bread has disintegrated (about 15-20 minutes).
- The soup will be very thick, but if you prefer a thinner soup, just add some more milk. Adjust salt to taste, and add some ground nutmeg, if you like.
- For a smoother texture, put some or all of the soup in a blender and puree. When putting hot liquids in a blender, be very careful as the sudden release of steam can blow the lid off of the blender sending hot soup all over your kitchen.
Yield: 2 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.