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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Soup Night

Wild Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil

When I was 10 years old, my father retired from the military and moved our family of 11 to Omaha, Nebraska where his parents and our aunt's family lived. We lived in a small house on the far north side of town and each day, unless it was bitterly cold, my sister Barbara and I walked the four blocks to Blessed Sacrament School and back home for lunch.
I remember the walks vividly. Kicking through the piles of leaves in the gutters in the fall with the dry leaves shoosh-shoosh-shooshing in waves over our feet and later in the year, rushing to get home through the snow to the hot lunch that we knew would warm us, right down to our mittened-but-still-freezing fingers.
Perhaps it is every northern kids lunch memory but there is nothing for me, to this day, like the smell of grilled cheese sandwiches and steaming bowls of creamy tomato soup. Pulling off our coats, rubber boots, snow-encrusted mittens and scarves and laying them next to the heater to warm and dry, we sat together, made kid small talk and dipped our sandwiches into the pools of orange-red cream.
            On other days, after a holiday dinner or Sunday roast chicken, mom would simmer stock for hours, filling the house with the rich aroma of chicken and onions and herbs. Hers was not only a true appreciation for good food but more important, a way to use everything she could to feed her 6 strapping boys and 3 growing girls.

Use your freezer to save ingredients for stock

            If eggs were cheap enough, she would make a mound of flour on the table, mix in eggs and begin to hand roll great sheets of pasta. Once the sheets were lightly dry, she rolled up each one and cut great ribbons for soup or to serve with homemade gravy from a pot roast. Today we marvel at people who take the time to make such 'gourmet' items. She did it because it was cheaper than buying pasta for her brood of kids.

            I, too, make my own stocks and soups. Mine are more likely pressure-canned or frozen for future use, as my 'brood of two' enjoy their own homes these days but I did take away many  mental notes on frugal cooking from my childhood. For instance, I keep a container in my freezer for onion skins, carrot tops, pepper and celery trimmings and other items that can be added to stock. When I find myself with bones enough, I have the remaining ingredients at the ready without purchasing a thing.
            Once the stock is finished, all I need to do is grab a jar off the shelf, heat it up and add whatever veggies I have on hand. Gourmet soup in 20 minutes? No problem. One of my favorites for days in a hurry is Wild Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil. This are not your run of the mill leftover-user but rather a hot meal that features the best of what is in season. This soup is also a great way to lower the amount of meat your family eats without making them feel deprived. Pair a steamy, fragrant bowl of stew or soup with an artisan salad and fresh, crusty bread and ‘Soup Night’ becomes something to look forward to.

Wild Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil                                       
This soup is fast and fabulous. It also freezes well. Serve this with tiny Taleggio cheese sandwiches and a big whole leaf Caesar Salad for an exceptional dinner.

3Tbsp Olive Oil or Butter, or a combination
2 Large Sweet Yellow Onions, julienne sliced
1 ½# Assorted Wild Mushrooms of your choice, sliced
½ TBSP ground Dried Porcini Mushrooms
Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Fresh Rosemary, minced – to taste
Fresh Thyme Leaves, minced – to taste
1 Bay Leaf
5-6 cups beef stock, low sodium
1 tsp Beef or Veal Demi Glace*
White Truffle Oil

Saute onions and mushrooms in olive oil until soft. Add porcini powder, herbs and seasonings.  Continue cooking until lightly browned. Add beef stock and demi glace.
Simmer to reduce slightly and allow flavors to blend. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Drizzle a few drops of Truffle oil into each bowl as the soup is served.


mixed dried mushrooms

                      You can also use a dried mushroom blend but make sure it contains those lovely, fragrant porcinis. I keep a coffee mill in my pantry specifically for grinding spices. It also works beautifully for grinding dried mushrooms.

                      Demi glace is a form of super-concentrated stock that adds great depth of flavor to soups and sauces. You can make your own but it is time consuming. I buy mine from Williams Sonoma. The soup can certainly be made without it.

Dried mushrooms ground to powder
give deeper flavor to soups and stews

                      Truffle oil is, in my opinion, food of the gods. A tiny amount goes a long way and there is nothing that can compare to its fragrant earthiness. Yes, it is expensive. Yes it is worth every dime.

                     Taleggio cheese is a wonderful, soft, slightly 'stinky' Italian cheese. It is GORGEOUS made into little (I use baguette rounds) grilled cheese sandwiches and drizzled with a tiny bit of white truffle oil.

                      If you use dried herbs, use whole leaf style (half as much as fresh – you can always add more, you can't take away) and rub them between your palms over the soup to wake up the flavors.

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