ladle out some love: old fashioned cream of mushroom soup

Around this time of year I go nuts for soups and I was feeling something with mushroom in it. This recipe for Old Fashioned Cream of Mushroom Soup comes from Anna Thomas's 'Love Soup' - a 2010 James Beard Foundation Cookbook winner. It's the first recipe I've made from Thomas's book and I'm so glad I started with it. (I only have 159 more to go!)  

Now don't let the 'cream' part scare you or have you running to the treadmill- there are only 3 tablespoons in the whole pot.  The soup has  great texture, awesome flavor and some really nice heat, thanks to the paprika. I followed the recipe as written, but added a healthy dose of thyme to the mushrooms while they were sautéing. That's just because I love thyme, but follow your preference here. 

I picked up some bread from the Denver Bread Company, ladled myself a big bowl of soup and presto, and dinner was served.  This is a great winter dish.

Old Fashioned Cream of Mushroom Soup
(Courtesy of Anna Thomas, Love Soup)
Yield: 6 servings
1 1/4 pounds portobello, cremini, or brown button mushrooms

2 medium yellow onions

4 cloves garlic

2 stalks celery

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh or dried thyme

2-3 tablespoons dry sherry or dry Marsala

6-7 cups any basic vegetable broth or 5 cups canned vegetable broth diluted with 2 cups water

2 1/2 tablespoons Arborio rice

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

3 tablespoons half-and-half or light cream

1/3 cup chopped fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley

Sour cream or crème fraiche for garnish (optional)


Clean and coarsely chop the mushrooms. Chop the onions; you should have about 3 cups. Mince the garlic and chop the celery to get about 3/4 cup.

In a nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil, add the chopped onions and a pinch of salt, and cook over gentle heat, stirring now and then, until the onions are soft and golden, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a second skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil with the butter and sauté the garlic in it over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper and thyme to taste. Raise the heat to high and sauté the mushrooms, stirring often, until they give up their liquid, sizzle, and begin to turn darker brown, 7 or 8 minutes. Add a splash of sherry or Marsala and stir as it cooks away.

While the mushrooms and onions are sautéing, put the broth, rice, and celery into a soup pot and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. (Remember, if you are using canned broth you should dilute it, about 2 parts broth to 1 part water, or it will be too salty.) When the mushrooms and onions are ready, add them to the pot along with the paprika and keep simmering, covered, for another 15 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the half-and-half and the fresh dill or parsley. Taste, and correct the seasoning with a pinch more salt if needed.

You can serve the soup as it is-- but another way to prepare the soup (and the way I made it) is to purée the soup to a semi-rough stage.  Add half the fresh dill or parsley to the soup with the half-and-half, then purée it with an immersion blender, using brief pulses, or a regular blender working in batches, until it is somewhere between smooth and chunky. Then sprinkle the remaining herbs on top of the soup and serve it.
If you like, drop a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraiche on each serving.