It’s the end of January, and that means winter is setting in. It’s been cold here in Southern Louisiana. A torrential storm has blasted a path across the southern state, so rainy that even though it’s sunny now, I’m eyeing the swiftly moving bayou behind our house, planning exactly what I’ll grab if it creeps any closer. I know back home in Nova Scotia they’re dealing with an impending “worst blizzard in 12 years”, with doom-filled forecasts. It’s right about now that we realize that Winter, in all its frigid glory, is here to stay.
I love winter. I can’t lie. I love curling up in front of the warm fireplace with an enormous book and a cup of hot chocolate. I love running outside to stand in the drifting storybook snowflakes. I love the crunch of crisp snow beneath boots. I love scarves and mittens and rosy cheeks kissed by the cold. Most of all, I love winter food. Hot chocolate and spiced apple cider, meaty foods with ‘pie’ in the name, enormous pots of steaming gloppy concoctions that stick to your insides when you eat them and make you feel all warm inside, and SOUP.
Is there anything better to ward off the chill of winter than soup? The correct answer is no, no there is not! And Cream of Mushroom soup, so rich, velvety and smooth, has long been a part of my winter tradition. Not just to eat with delicious rolls, but also as a part of several family recipes, from pot roast to chicken dishes to casseroles. Campbell’s condensed ‘Cream of Mushroom Soup’ no longer lives on our shelves due to the vague ‘spices’ ingredient listed on the label (and the results that have confirmed this is true!), but it’s okay. This recipe is even more delicious, and just as easy to store and keep for an emergency soup day! And it’s very easy to adapt to all sorts of diets, no matter what food allergies or intolerances you might have. Unless you have an allergy to mushrooms. Sorry, can’t help you there!
In the recipe today I’ll be using a combination of white button mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms for an added depth of flavour. Shiitake mushrooms aren’t just a swear word from a 90’s G-Rated movie, they’re also incredible flavourful and slightly nutty, and usually easy to find in the grocery store. They can be pricey though, depending on time of year and location, so I only put them in sometimes.
We’re going to chop all the mushrooms and the onion. I’m going to be using this soup for a couple other recipes I have planned, and I want the mushrooms to be nice and big. If you don’t want your soup to be as chunky, you can absolutely cut them smaller!
In a pot on the stove, we’re going to make a ‘roux’ – basically a flour and butter mixture that will serve as a thickener for the soup. First we need to melt the butter in the pot at about medium heat, and then toss in your flour. Immediately whisk it all together so that you end up with a yellow paste.
Then add your mushrooms, onions and mince the garlic into the pot. Stir it really well so that the roux covers everything.
Stir occasionally, cooking about 5 minutes, or until everything is soft. We do NOT want crunchy mushroom soup!
Once everything is soft and mushy and smelling like heaven, add chicken broth (I’m using my frozen Homemade Chicken Broth, but Vegetable Broth is good too!), and let it cook a bit longer, until it thickens. Whisk occasionally to make sure that the roux is really suspended in the broth.
Then stir in your dairy product of choice. You can use milk, half and half, full cream or evaporated milk. You have a lot of options, but there is a very important reason why! Milk products tend not to freeze very well. When thawed, they come out lumpy and separated. The higher the fat content, the less likely this is to happen! This particular batch of mushroom soup is never going to see the freezer, so I can use milk for fewer calories. If I were going to freeze it, I would use full cream or evaporated milk. If you are dairy free, coconut milk is easy to substitute in as well.
Now, if you HATE chunky soup, you can (carefully!) use an immersion blender to really smooth it out, or put it in a full blender. Just remember that if you’re blending hot liquids in a real blender, take out the plastic thing in the middle of the lid and cover the hole with a thick cloth held in place, or else you’re looking at a very soupy kitchen. I may, or may not have done this before… Turns out that hot liquids, when blending, have a tendency to make the plastic lid fly off. No extreme kitchening, please!
If you’re freezing it, allow it to cool slightly before you transfer it to the fridge to cool the rest of the way. You want it to be completely cold before you bag it or container it and put it in the freezer. Like the chicken broth, it helps to measure it into small baggies and lay them flat so that it’s easy and convenient to grab later when you need it!
For best results let it thaw in the fridge overnight, or slowly in a bowl of water. Otherwise you could end up with separated soup, and no one wants that!
And there you are, now you have a warm, versatile coat for your insides too! Enjoy, and stay warm!
- 8 oz. white button mushrooms AND/OR shiitake mushrooms, chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp butter*
- 5 cups
- chicken broth (http://halifaxbloggers.ca/isaynomato/2015/01/07/homemade-chicken-stock/)**
- 3 tbsp flour***
- 2 cups milk, half and half, cream OR evaporated milk*
- * Dairy-free option: margarine, coconut milk
- ** Vegetarian option:
- vegetable broth (http://halifaxbloggers.ca/isaynomato/2015/05/04/easy-homemade-vegetable-broth/)
- *** Gluten- free option: gluten free flour or arrowroot flour (thanks for the tip, gluten-free friends!)
- Chop mushrooms and onion into small pieces.
- Melt butter in a pot, add flour and stir until it makes a paste.
- Add chopped mushrooms, onion, and mince garlic into the pot. Stir until coated with flour/butter paste, and cook until soft.
- Add chicken broth and cook about 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Add cream and turn to medium high heat, bring to a boil, turning down to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Serve immediately, or store for later use. Can keep for 3 days in the fridge, or 6 months in the freezer.
- Notes on Freezing: If you intend to freeze the soup and store it, it’s important to use a higher fat-content dairy product, such as full fat cream or evaporated milk to prevent separation when thawing.