Button Mushrooms: Cream of Mushroom Soup

As our diets have moved to the veggie end of the omnivore scale, we find ourselves eating more and more mushrooms. They’re a little weird when you think about it. Not really vegetable, certainly not animal. Still, they’re “meaty” to be sure and their flavors help define the taste of umami.

The domesticated button mushroom is the most common mushroom in the world. For most of us, we purchase these guys in shrink-wrapped containers found in the produce market, but they can still be harvested the old fashion way in fields of grass after a light rain from spring to autumn. Still, we recommend that only the expert mushroom hunter identify and pick these guys (they have a deadly doppelganger named Destroying Angel). Foraging for wild and cultivated mushrooms at your local farmers market is much safer.

Culinary mushrooms are relatively calorie free but loaded with vitamins and minerals (vitamin D, riboflavin, folate, niacin and potassium). While a third of their calories come from protein, a cup of diced or sliced mushrooms contains a mere 15 calories, or 1% of a recommended daily adult intake. There’s not much to them. So it’s surprising mushrooms pack so much rich flavor.

That’s what we like best about mushrooms – their meaty, woodsy flavors and textures. They’re more flavorful cooked in a hot dry pan until toasty brown. It’s our favorite preparation before finishing with a sprig of thyme and a little olive oil, or butter in the hot pan. Then topped with crunchy sea salt and a little pepper just seconds before serving. They’re also tasty finished with fresh chopped garlic and served with toast or crusty bread, add them to soup, or serve with steak. However you plan on preparing them, be sure to add mushrooms to your diet.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

8 ounces button or crimini mushrooms
1 large or 2 small leeks
2 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons Sherry
3 cups veggie broth
2 cups whole milk, cream, or half & half
A few dashes (more or less) Worchester sauce
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt & pepper

Wipe off the mushrooms using a dry paper towel. Separate the stems from the mushroom caps. Keeping them separated, rough chop the stems and slice the caps.

Slice the leek down the center and wash the inside completely, under running water. Chop the leek.

In a large saucepan over medium heat add 2 tablespoons butter and the olive oil. Once the butter bubbles have subsided, add the leeks and cook until translucent, 2-3 minutes, add the chopped mushroom stems and sauté until the pan is dry but the veggies are not browned, 4-5 minutes. Push the veggies aside and in the center of the pan add the minced garlic. Stir the garlic until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Stir the veggies with the garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, then add the sherry, deglazing the pan and reduce the liquid slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Add the veggie broth and remove from heat.

Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth.

In the meantime, melt the remaining butter in the saucepan and once the bubbles have subsided, add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper then add the pureed soup and the 2 cups of milk, cream, or half & half. Season the soup with Worchester sauce, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the soup before serving, do not boil.

A Tale of Two Salmon: Part II

The time comes in every frozen fish’s afterlife when it must leave the security of the deep freeze to be thawed, prepped and cooked. The second large piece of Coho in our freezer met its fate this week – a fate that including a roasting, a baking and finally, a chowdering (is that a word?). Jason scaled and washed the salmon and stuffed it with fresh tarragon and lemon slices then roasted it in a 450 degree oven atop roasting fennel bulb and leeks and a dash of white wine. Roasting it bone-in with the skin on protects the meat from over-cooking. Still, salmon, like all fish, shouldn’t cook too long and get too hot or the flake of the fish becomes brittle and dry.

The resulting roast of salmon couldn’t have been tastier. We plated it with the roasted vegetables and a heap of horseradish mashed potatoes.

We wanted more the following day and since everything was cooked, all we had to do was load up a couple of baking dishes with mashed potatoes, a bit of veggies and a piece of salmon. We popped them into the toaster oven and within minutes we had a composed one dish meal. Because the salmon was dry thanks to the second cooking, it got a nice dollop of lemony mayo sauce that included chopped capers, fresh lemon juice, a dash of Tabasco and a little salt and fresh ground black pepper.


Left over Salmon

Later in the week, the leftover salmon enjoyed a second “life” in the form of a delicious chowder of sweet pink flakes in a light cream broth with potatoes, leeks and fresh herbs. I enjoyed a big bowl for lunch, then a second! The batch must have been huge because there’s plenty left for another day and Jason froze a mess of it for a future quick meal.

Cooking the salmon leaves plenty of room in the deep freeze for more fish. We’re hoping for a good catch next month when we try our hands at deep-sea fishing just off the coast of San Francisco. We’ll be sure to share the experience here so please stay tuned.


Steve & Jason

Roasted Salmon with Fennel and Leeks

olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 large leek, thinly sliced
¼ white wine
½ of a whole Coho salmon or salmon steaks
bunch of tarragon
½ lemon sliced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Add a couple tablespoon olive oil to a small roasting pan. Add the fennel, leeks, and salt and pepper to the pan and roast for 15 minutes. While vegetables are roasting, scale and clean the salmon. Salt and pepper the cavity of the salmon then stuff with tarragon and lemon slices. Coat the fish with olive oil and add more salt and pepper. Add the white wine to the roasting vegetables, then place the salmon on top of the vegetables and roast for 15-20 minutes. Check to make sure the salmon does not over cook. Serve with mashed or roasted potatoes, and aioli, tartar sauce, or hollandaise sauce.

If you’re using salmon steaks cook them for 10 minutes, or so, depending on the thickness of them. Check often to make sure the fish does not dry out.


Salmon Chowder

Salmon Chowder

1 large onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
4 cups stock (fish, chicken or veggie – we add the salmon bones to the stock to add flavor then strain before adding to the soup)
1 pint cream
1 cup milk
3 large waxy potatoes, cubed
10 oz flaked salmon
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat stock pot over medium heat and add butter. When butter is melted, add onions and sauté until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery and garlic, cook for 3-5 minutes longer being careful not to brown the vegetables. Add broth and potatoes and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender. Add salmon, cream and milk and heat until hot but not boiling. Add chopped parsley and serve.

Note: if you prefer a thicker chowder, add 2 tbsp flour to onion, celery and garlic after the sauté  and cook for a few minutes before adding stock. Be careful you don’t allow the roux to brown. Whisk liquid into the pan to prevent small “dumplings” from forming. Proceed with the remaining recipe instructions.