Dried Mushroom Soup

Winter weekends are made for soup. The weather is supposed to be cold, and if it’s raining or something, being stuck inside provides a great excuse to cook things. Especially if they’re easy, fairly quick, and taste earthy.

The great thing about mushroom soup is you can dress it up a bunch of different ways. You can make it vegan if you’re really hardcore about it, or you can make it with turkey stock (as I almost did). But it’s not necessary: a fairly routine set of ingredients make a perfectly delicious soup. This version is vegetarian, though you can easily amp up the body with cream or yogurt (or sour cream).

The other great thing about this soup is that it’s made with reconstituted mushrooms — they’re vastly more convenient and shelf-stable than fresh mushrooms, and the soaking liquid makes its own stock. Then, it’s just a question of aromatics and simmering, and you’re done. I used a mixture of shiitake, button, and poricin mushrooms — the former two in a local Asian grocery store, the latter at Safeway or something. You can add an extra cup’s worth if you’re using fresh; and make sure to sautée them with the onions and carrots (make sure to use 5 cups of stock if you do this). But dried mushrooms are what makes this magic.

2 cups or so of dried, mixed mushrooms

5 cups of water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium red onion, diced

1 medium carrot, diced

1 serrano chile, halved

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons of apple cider

2 tablespoons of milk, cream, yogurt, or sour cream

3 cups of rainbow chard

1 halved lime

Start by cleaning the mushrooms. Rinse them in a bowl two or three times to get most of the grit off. Then place them in a bowl and fill with four cups of cold water. Weigh the mushrooms with a plate or something to keep them submerged. Let sit for at least an hour, up to overnight (alternatively, you can boil an equivalent amount of water and soak them the same way for around twenty minutes or so).

When the mushrooms are ready, pour them through a sieve. Working in batches, squeeze the excess liquid out of the mushrooms and place on a cutting board. Slice them around half an inch thick, making sure to remove any stems that feel tough. Save the liquid and put the mushrooms aside.

Place the olive oil in a dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Dice the onion, carrot, and serrano chile. When it shimmers, add the onion, carrot, and chile. Trim the stems from the chard. Dice the stems into small pieces, then cut the chard leaves into one and a half inch strips. Stack the strips on top of each other and slice into a fine chiffonade.

When the aromatics are soft and slightly translucent, after five minutes or so, add the garlic and stir. After two to three minutes, when the garlic becomes fragrant deglaze the pot with vinegar, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits. Add the mushrooms. Stir for a minute or two. Pour the mushroom stock through a sieve into the pot and add another cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a strong simmer, then cover and cook for fifteen minutes.

Remove the lid and add the chard leaves; allow to simmer uncovered for around five minutes. Stir in the dairy and the juice of the half lime. Serve hot.

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