Yes, really. This is the recipe they’ve used at the White House for state dinners. Now, you can use it at your house for any dinner you choose. Are you thinking that it’ll be a difficult dish? It’ll involve techniques learned in the best cooking schools in France and ingredients flown in fresh from around the globe? After all, they have a staff of chefs standing by 24/7 at the White House. How in the world can we compete with that?
Quite well, as it turns out. This recipe, from Dining at the White House, by John Moeller, is fairly simple. Nothing more than some sautéing, simmering, and puréeing needed. It’s actually slightly easier than the Cream of Mushroom Soup we based on Julia Child’s recipe. The ingredients are straightforward, too: mushrooms, leeks, thyme, and garlic. Does that sound manageable? It did to us, so we scratched it right up for lunch on Christmas day.
Makes 6 servings.
For the mushrooms, the original recipe called for a pound of chanterelles; however, it also suggested that, if these aren’t available, to use any wild mushrooms that are available. We went with a mix of fresh oyster mushrooms, some ordinary white mushrooms, dried porcinis, and a few dried shiitake. Since this was for Christmas lunch, we did buy and use leeks. Normally, we’d use a mild onion, but, we thought that since we were splurging on oyster mushrooms anyway…. So, if you’re feeling less than presidential, choose a mild onion, and perhaps cut the amount back to 1/2 a cup. For the stock, we had some homemade stock sitting in the freezer (we made it from vegetable trimmings at Thanksgiving), and the water left over from rehydrating some of the mushrooms, but use a stock that you like, preferably something without a lot of salt.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en place. Take the time to prep everything; mince the leek (use care when cleaning leeks, as dirt will accumulate in the stems), and the garlic. Chop the mushrooms — the White House version purées all the soup, but we think mushroom soup is best when there are visible mushroom pieces — so keep in mind that you’ll want nice looking pieces of mushrooms and don’t just chop all higgily-piggily.
Cook leeks. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and let them cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and thyme. Stir in the garlic and thyme, and cook for about a minute, or so, stirring often. Garlic burns more easily than leeks, and burnt garlic is bitter; we’ll have none of that in our soup.
Sauté mushrooms. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat just a bit, and sauté until the mushrooms are cooked through and a light golden brown. Doesn’t that smell good? We think that mushrooms and onions cooking together is one of the best scents that can waft from the kitchen. Mmm.
Stir in flour. This recipe is interesting because it doesn’t start by making a roux; instead, you add the flour now, while stirring continuously. We would sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the mushrooms, stir it in, adding the second tablespoon in the same manner. The flour will clump up a bit on the bottom if you don’t stir (meaning lumpy soup later, a no-no for cream soups), so keep stirring.
Add stock and boil. Just pour the stock in and stir. It doesn’t have to be hot, in fact, ours was still partly frozen. Just make sure to stir enough to prevent lumps. Then bring everything to a boil.
Simmer. Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for at least 10 minutes to eliminate the taste of the flour. We’ve had soups that haven’t simmered long enough, and trust us, you can taste the flour, which is not good. Since we know you don’t want wallpaper paste soup, we know that you’ll simmer for the full 10 minutes.
Purée. Yes, you could purée all the soup if you want, but we didn’t do it. We like to have those pieces of mushroom in our soup. After all, it’s mushroom soup, and not to show off some of those lovely fungi is a real shame. So, we scooped about 1/3 of the soup into the food processor and whirred it for about a minute, until it was smooth. Now, if you’re thinking that’s too much trouble, and that maybe, just maybe, you’ll skip this purée step, understand there will be consequences. Puréeing gets more of the mushroom flavor into the broth and thickens up the soup a bit. That is, no puréeing and you’ll have less flavor, and your soup will be waterier. Return the puréed soup to the pan.
Add cream. Slowly stir in the cream and let the soup simmer for about 5 minutes. Don’t let it boil; just a simmer so the cream won’t separate.
Taste and season. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper. Since our vegetable stock didn’t have salt added when we made it, we had to add about a teaspoon of kosher salt. You might need less (or more), depending on your taste and the stock.
Serve. Ladle into shallow bowls, drizzle with a bit more cream, and top with a few Soup Crackers.
This recipe is a real keeper. It’s pretty quick and easy to make, taking only about 30 minutes or so, but this soup is really, really tasty. In fact, we think that this might be some of the best cream of mushroom soup we’ve ever had, due mainly to the mushrooms, of course, but also partly from the mildness of the leeks and the ability to use a good homemade vegetable stock. We had two bowls for Christmas day lunch, plus another bowl as the first course for our dinner, and, in some respects, were disappointed that we didn’t have just a bit more. Please note that, if you do re-heat the soup later, do so in a covered pan over low heat, and stir often, bringing the soup just to a simmer. Try this soup, and we think you’ll agree that it’s worth five stars, and, with it being this easy, you don’t have to wait for a holiday to try it!