Unfussy Fare

Wild Mushroom Soup


Mushrooms are the enticing bad-boy of the vegetable world. It’s hard to decide if they’re beautiful or ugly, which makes me want to buy them a drink and hear their story. They have all those poisonous cousins, which adds to the intrigue. They walk the line between funk and sophistication. Make them into a luscious soup, and they taste just as complicated and deep as they look.

I had some mushroom kismet. First, a generous friend who hunts mushrooms on misty Oregon mountsides gave us a gorgeous bag of chanterelles. The very next day I was seduced by the sumptuous smell of maitake mushrooms sautéing in butter on a camp stove at the farmer’s market. Free samples. They work. If the universe hasn’t thrown any interesting mushrooms into your path lately, don’t worry. You can buy a few good varieties at most any grocery store. I’m confident this recipe will work with whatever mix of mushrooms you can get your hands on.

Before we get to the recipe, I have a confession. At the risk of ruining my reputation as a lazy, short-cutting, step-skipping cook, I made my own vegetable stock a few weeks ago. Making your own stock is flat fussy. Unless you consider that all you have to do is chop some stuff, sauté, add water, then ignore for an hour. It doesn’t require attention or skill. But it does require forethought, and time.  In my book, that’s a lot to ask, but it turns out it’s worth the effort. It”s seriously bumped up the taste of my soups. I’m making my own vegetable stock from here on out.

What compelled me to get off my unfussy can and make stock? Well, it was a post I read on a vegan blog. I know. What are the odds of me reading a vegan blog? I’m a contender for President of the Society for the Advancement of Butter. When I think vegan, I think sawdusty cookies and sanctimony. (Sorry, vegan readers. I base my totally unfair generalization on very limited personal experience. I’m sure you have a wicked sense of humor and a fabulous flair for cooking.) Regardless, this most excellent post made a mighty convincing case for homemade vegetable stock. So convincing that I made some. I used it in a squash soup, which was delectable. I froze the rest for a rainy day. It rained mushrooms. How could I resist?

This soup has a sublime interplay of flavors and scents. There’s the smell of freshly turned soil, and fall leaves, and hay. That’s all in there. And then there’s the way the cream folds itself elegantly around the rest. It’s smooth silk beside the nubby linen of mushrooms. The leeks and garlic? Delicate stitching. And the wine? Help! How do I escape from this tortured sewing analogy? I’ll just move on. The wine tastes exactly like it was born to simmer with mushrooms and leeks.  Which it was. ‘Nuf said.


makes four servings

4 tablespoons butter
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced into quarter-inch rounds and rinsed well
2 pounds mushrooms, any kind you like, chopped coarsely
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup white wine
2 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons sherry
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leeks, and sauté for about five minutes.

Add mushrooms, sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, and sauté until the liquid cooks off and the mushrooms start to brown, about 12 minutes. Hold off salting the vegetables. The stock may be salty enough.

Add thyme and garlic, and sauté for another minute or two. Add wine and simmer for five minutes.

Add vegetable stock and water. (You can use store-bought stock if you’re not inspired to make your own. I”ll never tell.) Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Puree soup in a blender or food processor until it is very smooth. Return soup to pot over low heat.

Add cream and sherry and stir to blend. Warm soup over low heat until it is warmed through. Do not boil the cream.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh thyme.


7 Responses to “Wild Mushroom Soup”

  1. Derek Oslo says:

    Mushrooms are a lot like people. Some are poison. Some pleasure. All smell a little. Therefore you are right: the safe bet is to puree them all with wine and cream.

  2. Gillian says:

    How right you are, Derek. The French figured this all out a long time ago.

  3. Pam Rokke says:

    What did you put on top besides the fresh thyme? Sour cream?

  4. Gillian says:

    It’s sour cream. Which I don’t think the soup really needs. It didn’t hurt anything, but it’s rich enough already. It’s just that when I went to take a picture, it just looked so….beige. It just needed a little something to make it look more appetizing. So now it has a mysterious white blob in a circle of beige. Nice, huh? Actually, next time around I’ll pull a few slices of sauteed mushroom out of the pot before I puree, then place them artfully on top of the puree. I just didn’t think about it…

  5. Mandy says:

    Just tried this tonight with the ingredients I had on hand (no leeks or sherry) and it was delicious! It was wonderful with some freshly grated parmesan on top! Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

  6. Jennifer says:

    How do you make your veggie broth?

  7. Gillian says:

    If you click on the hyperlink that says “this most excellent post” it will take you to the blog that tells you how. It’s worth it!

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