27 January 2016

Mushroom Soup for the Solitary Soul

Left to her own devices, caribougrrl looks around at her life and takes stock... duck stock, that is.  And makes the best mushroom soup Fefe Noir never ate.

This mushroom soup has a mixture of sauteed and roasted mushrooms.  It has the classic Hungarian mushroom soup flavours of paprika and dill, but without the cream.  Don't worry though, it's got some duck fat in there to fill you up.

This-Ain't-No-Cream-of Hungarian Mushroom Soup

loosely adapted from Mollie Katzen's The Moosewood Cookbook (with duck fat apologies to Mollie Katzen)
Whenever you roast a duck, hang on to
the rendered fat.  Less waste and
more taste!

3 c. duck broth* (or chicken broth or vegetable broth)
a handful of dried chanterelles (or other dried mushrooms, or none at all)
1-1/2 lbs fresh mushrooms**
5 shallots, very thinly sliced
3 tbsp duck fat* (or chicken fat, or goose fat, or other lovely fat dripped from a roast, or olive oil)
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked hot paprika
a sprig or more of fresh dill, finely chopped
2 c. water (or if you are feeling fancy, 1 cup white wine + 1 cup water)
juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon (or other lemon or a splash of cider vinegar)

*On Boxing Day, we made Jamie Oliver's Citrus Roast Duck, reserving the fat for later. After a meal of roast duck, then a meal of duck tacos and a lunch of duck on leafy salad, Fefe Noir used the remaining carcass to make a big pot of broth.  I found it in the freezer then remembered the duck fat in the fridge, so that's what I used.  Feel free to use chicken broth, but I can't vouch for the results (it will probably be awesome, but not as awesome as duck broth).  If you've been looking for an excuse to roast a duck, duck tacos and mushroom soup are reason enough.

**Any kind of fresh mushroom.  Or a mixture.  White, brown, cremini, portabello, baby bello, etc.

In a small sauce pan, heat the broth to a boil then remove from heat.  Crush up the dried chanterelles or other dried mushroom and add them to the hot broth to rehydrate.  If you aren't using dried mushrooms, which is perfectly acceptable too, then just skip this step.

Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Fefe is always telling me, when she is taking photos, that everything is
information. Clearly, she is better at seeing the information in-camera than
I am.  So here's the information: the counter is crowded, the espresso machine
is under-utilized, we have a lot of vinegars, the curtains could use a wash...
Clean your mushrooms as needed and slice about half a pound of them.  If you bought them pre-sliced, you are done, move on to the next step.  If you bought your mushrooms whole, then halve or quarter the remaining mushrooms rather than slicing, just for a variety of shapes.  If you do slice these ones though, slice them thickly.

Take the halved and quartered mushrooms (or two-thirds of your pre-sliced mushrooms)  and, using your hands, coat them well in 1 tbsp of the fat.  Spread them over a shallow baking pan and put them in the oven to roast.  Roast until they are shriveled and have lovely browned edges.  This will take 10-20 minutes depending on the mushrooms.  Don't interfere with them until at least 10 minutes are passed, then you can check them, maybe stir them around, and either remove from the oven because they are done, or stick them back in for a bit.

While the mushrooms are roasting, heat the remaining fat in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently but not constantly, until they are soft and browned.  Add the remaining mushrooms stirring only occasionally until they are soft (3-5 minutes).

Add paprika and dill, stir to coat the shallots and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes.

Pour the broth with rehydrated mushrooom bits and the water into the pan.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.  Add the roasted mushrooms to the pot and simmer, covered, until you are ready to eat.  (Really, it's probably fine right away, but I have this idea that soup should simmer for a while.  So I took the opportunity to wash the kitchen floor and wait for it to dry.  I inadvertently separated myself from a glass of wine on the counter but luckily I found more glasses and more wine in the dining room...)

Just before serving, squeeze the lemon juice into the soup and give it a good stir. 

Fefe Noir usually takes the photos for this blog.  Here is a shining example of why... I would have left it out entirely except I feel like there has to be a photo of the finished non-cream version of Hungarian mushroom soup.  I swear, it looks better than it looks, and tastes even better than that.


I've been abandoned.  Left to fend for myself.

For two weeks.

Two eternal weeks.

I have learned a few things about myself.  Primarily that I am spoiled.

Since Fefe Noir left, I have had to do the following things: wash all the dishes (not just the ones that go in the dishwasher), sweep, vacuum and wash floors, carry mugs back to the kitchen from the various bizarre places they materialize (like the window sill in the front hall... who leaves a mug in a place like that?), feed the dogs TWICE during the day including remembering the appropriate medications on the appropriate days, feed the cats, clean the litter boxes, do my own laundry (do my own laundry!), empty garbage cans, take the overflowing compost bucket out to the composter, prep AND cook meals, remember all the stuff I am supposed to remember without being reminded, make the bed, let dogs out to pee, let them back in, take my coat off the back of the chair and hang it up, put the shoes I left in the middle of the hallway away, take my own photos for the blog***... PLUS all the things I usually do (which, admittedly, are not much of anything at all)...

***you may have noticed the general decline in quality in the photos, my apologies, I have no patience

...it's exhausting.

I realize that most people have to do all that stuff all the time, with or without help from anyone else.  Good lord, some of you even have children to sort out in the midst of all of that.  My hat is off.  I don't know how you keep it up.

So I am not looking for sympathy, just trying to say that I get it.  You're tired, I'm tired.  None of us knows what to make for dinner because all of it seems too difficult.

Which brings me to the prepping (usually Fefe does this before I get home) and cooking of meals.  It turns out that left to my own devices with no one but me to impress, mostly I'm lazy.  Since Fefe's been gone, there have been a lot of salads using pre-washed lettuce and cold leftover things.  As in, all of the leftover things that were already in the fridge before I began this solitary life.  Eventually I ran out though.  Then I ran out of canned tuna too.

So I made soup.  Good nutritious comforting stuff, soup is, and even though it takes a bit of work (but not a lot of work) to prepare, you can make it in great big quantities, saving yourself the bother of cooking tomorrow, and maybe even the day after that.  Or you can freeze it, saving yourself the bother of cooking some day in the future.  

Here's the other thing about eating when Fefe is away: I make a point of eating things she doesn't like to eat because, well, here's my chance.  I've made popcorn five times in the last couple of weeks.  I ate tuna fish directly out of the can once.  I made banana muffins and sweetened them with date syrup and did not use one bit of chocolate in them... all the dessert sins in one dish.

Fefe does not like mushroom soup.  I love mushroom soup.  I made a point of buying a lot of mushrooms in order to make the Moosewood Hungarian Mushroom Soup because I wanted to make a mushroom soup that was not creamy.  I wanted broth and big pieces of mushroom swimming around in a rich but thin broth.  I hadn't made that soup for nearly 20 years (see introductory statement of this paragraph).  So I got home and fed the dogs and let them out and unloaded the dishwasher and moved laundry around and opened up the Moosewood Cookbook to discover that my memory of the soup was nearly completely wrong.  The recipe makes a thickened milky sour-creamy soup, which is undoubtedly lovely if that's what you are looking for.  But I had my heart set by now.  So I made the soup I wanted instead.  

(I ate it for dinner and lunch for three days running, brought some into work for a colleague, and froze a lunch portion.  I got a lot of not-cooking out of this one.)