There’s just something about the rain that makes me want soup. Hot, thick, creamy, hearty soup that tastes like fall and comfort food and HOME.
…doesn’t hurt if it also tastes like the best part of the forests at this time of year: wild mushrooms!
I am NOT going to go into a long diatribe about wild mushrooms here. You know they can be dangerous if you are not careful. You know how to find information, take classes, or find field guides. You know the old adage about there being no old AND bold mushroom foragers, and you know the “when in doubt, throw it out” rule.
You DO know all that, right?
Look – just don’t be a moron. You don’t eat stuff when you don’t know what it is, and mushrooms can be hard to positively identify. So be careful. Learn from an expert. Or hey, buy them from any number of online and local retailers who will do the dirty work for you.
If you are an experienced forager of all things fungi, you will know that the recent torrential rainstorm means very good things for our little forest friends. My roommate brought home a lovely porcini that he found at work the other day, and Rick found a beautiful prince while out for a stroll in the city. Me, I’m holding out for chantarelles…I’m not likely to find them in the city, but I know where they’ll be not far from here, and I’m gonna be ready when they show themselves.
Last year, we managed quite the massive chantarelle haul, and I did quite a bit of research into how best to store different types of wild mushrooms for future use. Because of the different moisture levels and textures of the mushroom flesh, each one must be treated differently to best maintain its flavor, texture, and color.
Porcinis dry well. As do black chantarelles (also called black trumpets) and morels…though I like hang-drying morels better than using a dehydrator. Hedgehogs and chantarelles do NOT dry well. Or, I should say, they do not rehydrate well, leaving you with either a mushy goo, or a rubbery, flavorless lump. No, these delicate mushrooms are best frozen. But wait, there’s more to it than just stuffing them in a bag in the freezer – you must prepare them first:
Freezing wild mushrooms crash-course:
– brush or otherwise clean your mushrooms thoroughly (if they are sturdy, you can wash them. But ONLY if you are just about to cook with them).
-cut mushrooms into strips, dice, or mince
-mince some shallots or garlic, if you like
-dry sauté the mushrooms in a large pan until most of the liquid has been released and evaporated
-add the shallots and some butter, and simmer until the onions are just barely translucent.
– remove the mixture from the heat and transfer into ice cube trays, muffin tins, or ramekins.
-freeze until solid, then transfer the pucks into a freezer-safe zip-top bag for final storage. Label the bag, as they are hard to distinguish once frozen.
These pucks can be re-hydrated into dips, sauces, gravies, risottos, or used to make my favorite fall soup:
Cream of Chantarelle:
approximately 1 c prepared frozen chantarelles (or about 3 c fresh, cleaned and minced)
2 medium shallots (omit if there are shallots in the frozen mixture)
1 clove garlic (ditto)
4 Tbsp butter (1 Tbsp separated out)
2-3 Tbsp flour
1/2 c white wine or sherry
3 c vegetable or mushroom stock
1 c milk
1 c heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
If starting with fresh chantarelles, follow the same steps as above, dry-sauteeing the mushrooms and simmering with the shallots and 1 Tbsp of butter. Set these aside (if you’re using frozen mushrooms, toss the pucks into a pan over medium heat until they are thawed and starting to simmer lightly).
In another (large) pan, melt the remaining 3 Tbsp of butter, and whisk in as much flour as it will hold. This is called a roux – it will look sort of like a crumbly dough. Cook this for a few minutes until it is barely browning. Then add in about 1 c of stock and whisk together until smooth. Continue whisking while adding the rest of the stock and the white wine. Bring to a bare simmer, but DO NOT BOIL.
Add in the milk and cream, again whisking until smooth. Incorporate the sauteed chantarelles and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot with a big hunk of crusty bread (a rustic sourdough is great with this). If you want to serve a vegetable, nothing beats broccoli as a side dish. Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are OK too.
But make no mistake, this soup will steal the show.
Soon I will be overrun with fresh chantarelles (I can hear the raindrops now, telling me they are on their way), so I’ve got a great excuse for using all of last year’s haul. I have a feeling there will be quite a bit of this soup in my future!