If a man cannot or will not cook, he is not a man. All REAL men – manly men, if you will – know how to cook, and by cook I don’t mean scurry around a studio kitchen yelling “BAM!” and cooking stuff most ordinary chefs don’t cook, like that wretched little Emeril does on his stupid Food Network show. Honestly…what kind of serious chef has his own studio band, complete with an African-American Doc Severinsen? I learned to cook because my mother – God rest her soul – was a superb cook. When I moved out and lived on my own, I had no choice but to teach myself the arcane ways of the kitchen.
Mushrooms – be they sauteed, broiled, baked or even grilled and served in lieu of burgers – are what I call an “either/or” food: you either enjoy eating them or hate the very sight of them. I suppose that much of it has to do with the fact that the humble mushroom is a fungus with a funky, earthy taste and spongy texture that can make some people gag outright at just the thought of eating it.
For my part, I’m a mushroom fanatic and I loves me the fungus in all its culinary incarnations, not the least of which takes the form of a piping hot bowl of full-bodied soup. Unfortunately, unless you are willing to fork over beaucoup bucks for a can of boutique brew, you’re stuck with the awful gray slop that, according to the marketing geniuses at Campbell’s, passes for mushroom soup.
Yesterday I whipped up this dish for Nicole – who is also a mushroom fanatic – and she said it was the best mushroom soup she had ever eaten, a heartfelt compliment that I’m sure had nothing to do with the butcher knife I was holding in my hand at the time.
½ cup dried porcini mushrooms reconstituted in 2 cups water (see directions)
2 cups fresh portabella mushrooms, finely diced
1 medium onion, very finely diced
2 tbsp butter
2 cups water
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp dried marjoram
1-½ cups half and half or light cream
2 heaping tbsp flour mixed with ½ cup milk (strain through sieve to remove lumps)
In a small saucepan bring 2 cups water to a boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and add porcini mushrooms. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until mushrooms are fully reconstituted. Drain mushrooms and reserve the liquid. Using a sharp knife, finely dice the mushrooms and return to the reserved liquid.
Place a 2-quart saucepot on high heat. Add butter and then onions when butter begins to bubble. Reduce heat to medium and saute until the onions are a medium brown color. Deglaze the pan with sherry and then add diced portabella mushrooms. Continue sauteing for 5 minutes, then add reserved porcini mushrooms and liquid. While stirring, add water, chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce along black pepper and marjoram. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
Add half and half; while stirring, slowly add flour/milk mixture until soup begins to thicken to desired consistency (you don’t want the soup to be too thick). Continue simmering for another 10 minutes, then remove from heat and then add salt to taste. The soup should have a pleasing, rich, earthy brown color and a strong mushroom fragrance.
Serve with freshly toasted garlic bread and a garden salad, accompanied by a tall glass of winter ale.