Soul satisfying, there is a hint of spring promise in the spongy morels, the glorious golden earthy apricot-tasting chanterelle, when they and their other fungi cousins are caramelized with a classic combination of onion, garlic, a splash of wine, and a bundle of thyme. The extra step in this recipe requiring a deep sear of the mushrooms until they are deeply browned and their juices nearly dried up takes this forest floor foraged Old World peasant meal from a cosy meal in front of the fireplace on a cold night to celebratory heights in which this woodland gathered soup is worthy of gracing any holiday table. A smokey flavor develops when dried and fresh mushrooms are cooked together. The butter browns and ultimately heightens the intense woodsiness of the soup. This is a thick, beautiful bowl that can be eaten as a filling meal when served with a simple salad of perfectly dressed greens and a slice of light rye. A substantial, artisanal-baked light rye loaf holds up to the meatiness of the mushrooms. It is as if the soup had invited an old friend to dinner for an opportunity to enjoy the other's company and converse until the last bite. Our favorite way to eat this soup the next day (if there is any leftover) is as an open-faced toasted sandwich on a soup plate with a fork and knife - let the soup sit on bread soaking up the goodness for a good two to three minutes before serving (may be popped in the oven on 200 degrees F to keep warm). It is also a delightful side course when served in small cups alongside a meal of perfectly roasted chicken and some blanched asparagus.
Ingredients1/2 cup unsalted butter 2 pounds wild mushrooms 1 ounce dried chanterelles 1 ounce dried morels 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 large yellow onion, diced 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 6 sprigs fresh thyme 4 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup dry white wine 4 cups chicken broth 1 cup water 1 cup heavy cream Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1 lemon, juiced 2 tablespoons parsley, minced 6 slices light rye bread, cut in half Olive oil (for brushing the bread)
Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Put the dried morels and chanterelles in hot water for five minutes until rehydrated and soft. Strain the liquid and pour it into the hot butter along with half of each type of dried mushroom.
Add the mushrooms (set aside a few attractive mushroom slices for garnish later) and the salt and turn the heat to high. Sear the mushrooms until they are golden brown, caramelized, and have a deep earthy smell.
Reduce heat to low and add the onion and the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the juices evaporate and the onion is transluscent, about five minutes.
Stir the flour into mushroom mixture and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes to remove raw flour taste.
Add the wine and deglaze the pan scraping up all the browned bits (this is where the intense woodsy flavor comes from).
Tie the thyme sprigs into a small bundle with kitchen twine and add to mushroom mixture. Pour in the chicken stock and wate and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour and then remove the thyme bundle.
Transfer the soup to a blender and puree on high speed until the mixture is thick but you can still see small pieces of the mushroom.
Return the soup to the pot and stir in the cream, season with salt and black pepper, and finish with the lemon juice.
In a 10" skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat. Add the reserved mushroom slices and sear until golden brown.
Transfer the soup to a large serving bowl (or individual bowls), top with the reserved seared mushrooms, and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately with the bread fresh from the oven.
Any combination of wild mushrooms works. Our favorites include the usual suspects: cremini, portabello,and shitake. More specialty species of mushrooms such as enoki, king trumpet, hen of the woods (maitake), golden oyster, or poppino are usually packaged together as a 'chef's' or 'forest medleys--a bit more expensive than the others, but only one package is needed to push the flavor and this finished plate into the extraordinary category. A tzitzel (the Yiddish word for caraway) rye bread is our favorite bread to serve with this soup. It is hearty enough to maintain its textured integrity when sopped in the soup, but less intensely flavored so as to remain a spectator rather than a competitor in the recipe.