During a recent dark and dreary day, I was inspired to transform the ever expanding bone garden in my freezer to delicious, rich and flavorful chicken stock. The freezer harbored five packages of various chicken parts, carcasses, discarded herbs and vegetables awaiting their purpose. It was time for the large stock pot to resurface after its summer vacation and go to work. After a long simmer and the addition of a few other ingredients, 6 1/2 quarts of liquid gold was produced. Just thinking of the possibilities for their future made the wheels of my creative spirit go into overdrive.
The chill in the air reminded me that soup season had arrived so I was further inspired to develop today’s featured recipe, Mushroom Soup w/ Madeira. I checked my produce drawers and found fresh crimini begging for a purpose and a lovely package of dried wild mushrooms took up residence in my pantry. The liquor cabinet held a bottle of Madeira wine and the herb garden had ample thyme, so off I went. If you are unfamiliar with Madeira (muh-DEER-uh), it is a distinctive fortified wine, named after the Portuguese-owned island where it is made. It can range in color from pale blond to deep tawny and runs the gamut from quite dry to very sweet. The American-made Madeiras cannot compare with the Portuguese originals but they are a fraction of the price and make a perfectly fine cooking wine. If you are not so inclined to purchase this wine, you could substitute sherry.
There are thousands of varieties of the fleshy fungus, but we are most familiar with the cultivated ones readily available in our markets. I used crimini for the fresh, also called baby portabellos or brown button. I think they are more flavorful than their cousins, the white button, but you could use any type you like. It is the more exotic wild varieties that most excite my palate such as, chanterelle, enoki, morel, wood ear and shiitake. This is why I chose the a variety pack of the dried to develop the earthy, rich flavor of the base and saving the fresh more for texture.
Here is how it went down in my kitchen.
JEANNE’S MUSHROOM SOUP w/ MADEIRA WINE 4-6 Servings
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
1.5-2.0 oz. dried wild mushrooms
10 oz fresh crimini mushrooms
2T unsalted butter
2T extra virgin olive oil +1T for later
2 large shallots, halved and sliced thin (or 1 small onion)
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 oz. Madeira wine
4c unsalted chicken stock or vegetable stock for vegetarian
1 fresh thyme bundle
1/2c heavy cream
Juice of one half fresh lemon or to taste
- Rinse the dried mushrooms and place in a heat proof bowl. Add 4c of boiling water and allow to reconstitute for about 30 minutes or until softened. Carefully remove the mushrooms, coarsely chop and set aside. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve lined in cheese cloth to remove any sand. Reserve the liquid.
- Trim the fresh mushrooms removing the stems and discarding the very ends. Trim and chop the the remainder of the stems and reserve. Slice the mushroom caps about 1/4-inch thick. Set aside.
- Melt 2T in a large heavy bottom soup pot, add 2T of the olive oil. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook until they are softened and begin to release their liquid. Remove the caps from the pan and set aside.
- Heat the additional 1T of olive oil and add the shallots. cook until softened and add the minced garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Add the chopped mushroom stems and chopped reconstituted dried mushrooms. Cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the Madiera wine and cook until reduced to half.
- Add 3c of the reserved mushroom soaking water and the chicken stock.
- Tie a bundle of thyme and add to the pot. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the thyme bundle and puree the soup until very smooth.
- Before serving, add the heavy cream and allow to cook gently until thickened a bit. Add the reserved mushroom caps and cook until heated through. Add a bit of lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon, if needed.
If you share my enthusiasm for mushrooms, I feel confident you will enjoy the earthiness of this soup, provided by the fungi, paired with a hint of sweetness contributed by the Madeira, and the herbaceous notes given freely by the fresh thyme. The lemon juice at the end gives it a bright boost of acidity to balance it all out.
Making soup is the perfect time to experiment and let your pantry do the talking. I would love to hear about your favorite creations. Whatever they may be, soup provides comfort and is a delicious way to spread the love, one dish at a time.
Wishing you all a happy celebration and urge you to please, have fun, be safe and remember to:
“Eat, Drink and be Scary”