The Recipe: For anyone who's only tasted canned mushroom soup before, this recipe for homemade mushroom soup will be a revelation.
The Conversation: An introduction to St. Louis' very own "mushroom lady" and her company, Ozark Forest.
Missouri’s Bootheel and the country of Japan share a mycological treasure, climates, water and timber perfect for cultivating mushrooms. Leave it to a clever Englishwoman to figure that out.
Nicola Macpherson is St. Louis’ very own "mushroom lady". Her company, Ozark Forest, grows shiitake and oyster mushrooms year-round on a family farm using renewable, sustainable and organic agro-forestry practices.
Whew. Yeah, that's a mouthful. How does she do that, really, in laymushroom terms?
First, specially harvested oak limbs are inoculated with mushroom spawn. Then they're left alone to incubate for six to nine months. Come spring, the spawn are soaked in water for 24 hours. Then comes the real magic. After a few days? The mushrooms are ready to harvest!
Ozark Forest mushrooms mostly get grabbed up by the chefs at local farm-to-plate restaurants. But keep a look-out for a woman with a lovely English accent peddling mushrooms at weekend fairs and farmers markets. Until then, use fresh mushrooms from the supermarket which also yield a luscious pot of creamy soup.
KITCHEN CLASSIC: MUSHROOM SOUP
Time to table: Minimum 24 hours, preferably 48 hours
Makes 5-1/2 cups
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, diced small
- 1 pound pound fresh mushrooms, trimmed, a few sliced, the rest chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon flour
- Hot chicken stock
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon dry sherry
- Salt & white pepper to taste
- Grated nutmeg, for serving
Bring broth to a boil in the microwave.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onion and "sweat" for about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms as they’re prepped, cook until just beginning to soften.
Stir in the flour until all the lumps are gone, let cook for a minute or two to cook off the floury taste. A quarter cup at a time at first, slowly add the hot broth, stirring the whole time, letting each addition mix in completely before adding another. Bring to a boil, adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer. Let cook for about an hour, until the mushrooms are soft.
Stir in the milk, cream and sherry; heat through but do not boil. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Cool and refrigerate for 24 - 48 hours for the deep mushrooms flavor to develop. Before serving, gently rewarm but don’t let boil. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with nutmeg. Savor every spoonful.
VARIATIONS On occasion, I've lightened this soup considerably by using Smart Balance instead of butter and fat-free half 'n' half for the milk and cream. I've also thickened it with arrowroot rather than flour but have learned to do the thickening at the very end of cooking, rather than the beginning. Next time, I'm going to use just 2 tablespoons butter but really allow the time for the mushrooms to soak up the butter.
ALANNA’S TIPS I can't impress this strongly enough: do-do-do make the soup at least a full day ahead of time and even better, two days. Usually when a recipe says to allow 24 hours for the flavors to develop, it's okay to make the soup in the morning for dinner that night. This soup? No way. You'll be wondering what all the fuss is about if you eat it too soon. Please know, the texture of this soup is thinner (soupier?!) than the heavy gloppy stuff that canned soup has trained our tastebuds to expect. For a thicker soup, use less stock or work in another tablespoon or two of flour. To "sweat" onions is to gently cook them without allowing the onions to turn color, without browning them. For this delicious soup, choose shiitake, cremini or baby bella mushrooms. These can be expensive so to economize, it's just fine to use half the less expensive white button mushrooms. I like to keep food recognizable, making it clear what's on a plate or inside a bowl. So once for this soup, I broke apart the mushroom caps into large chunks with my hands, a technique first learned with the World's Best Green Bean Casserole. That said, for this soup, I think the texture is best when most (let's say 3/4) of the mushroom pieces are chopped small and the rest are sliced to show off the traditional mushroom shape. Use fresh-grated nutmeg if you can, it really makes a difference! Surprisingly, this soup is as good cold as it is hot. Who knew?!
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