You’ve probably noticed the dry spell in posts lately. That was because we were preparing food for a moderately large (~100-150 people) party, all of it finger food. Things like mini-quiches, almond macaroons, those things that are easy to pick up and eat right out of hand. With all that baking going on, we also needed something a bit restorative: soup.
The soup we decided on was a cream of mushroom; we just love the texture of a super-smooth cream soup, but we also wanted something lighter. Now, we could have just cut back a bit on the cream, but, we decided to eliminate it all together. A cream-less cream soup? Sure, why not, if you know the secret that we’re about to reveal.
Rice? Yep, rice is the secret for a super-smooth, super-creamy soup, without a drop of cream. It really works! If you don’t have, or don’t want to buy leeks, just add a bit more onion; not too much, though, as leeks are very mild, but have great flavor. For the mushrooms, we just used a box of those ubiquitous white mushrooms available everywhere. For the stock, we take the trouble to make our own by simmering clean vegetable scraps for 45 minutes and straining. It’s little effort, so why not?
Procedure in detail:
Sweat onions. This is a little different from many of the recipes that call for onions; it’s all to avoid browning. Place the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and garlic, and stir to coat everything with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Allow the onions and garlic to steam/sweat until tender, but not browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. We used these few minutes to chop the leek and mushrooms.
Add almost everything else. Add the leeks, thyme, sage, mushrooms, vegetable stock, and the secret ingredient: rice. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the vegetables are tender and the rice is cooked through. The latter is the most important part, since the rice will release the starches that make for a creamy soup.
Blend. Okay, the soup doesn’t look the least bit creamy, does it? It looks like a rice soup in broth, but, with the power of a blender, this soup will be creamy. Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the soup to a blender and process until smooth. As always, when blending hot liquids, leave the lid of the blender slightly vented, holding a dish towel over the vent. This is to let the hot air expanding out of the blender without the lid popping off and shooting hot soup across the walls. While the soup is blending, quickly wash out the saucepan to ensure that you wont have any small bits of vegetables in your soup.
Strain. This step is optional, but we did it, so we include it here. For the best, smoothest soup possible, strain it through a fine mesh strainer. It does take a few minutes, and it might seem like overkill, but cream soups are all about texture, and this will avoid those few small pieces of vegetables that didn’t blend completely.
Season. If needed, slowly rewarm the soup over low heat. Add the vinegar, which helps bring out flavor, then taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. The amount of salt and pepper, of course, depends on the saltiness of the stock.
Serve. Once heated, ladle into bowls, sprinkle with a bit of mild dry herbs (we used chervil) for a bit of visual interest, and follow up with a few croutons for texture.
It’s hard to believe, but this soup is creamy. Very creamy. Is it as creamy as real cream soups? It is, and it isn’t. The texture is almost identical to cream soups made with lots of heavy cream, but the mouth feel and richness aren’t quite the same. As you eat the soup, you’ll notice the certain taste and texture that come from fat are missing; it tastes as though the soup is slightly, just slightly, watered down, but you do need to pay attention to notice it. Overall, four stars, mainly because it isn’t quite as good as the real-deal.