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.
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.