inspiration from the kitchen in boulder: parsnip soup puree with mushrooms


I'm a winter baby, born in the middle of January, right on the cusp of Capricorn and Aquarius. My special day also falls on (or very close to) our country's inauguration day. So in 1981, I wrote to President-Elect Ronald Reagan and asked to be invited to the big party. You know, because I was a birthday girl and all. The letter went something like: 

Dear President-Elect Ronald Reagan,
I turn 5 years old the very same day you will become the President of the United States. Can I come to your inauguration party and stay with you and Nancy at the White House?
Sincerely,
Batya S.
Bronx, New York

Then there was radio silence. Nary a peep from the soon-to-be-commander-in-chief. The man-in-charge left me hanging. But a few months later, some time in the spring, a large envelope arrived at our doorstep and it had my name on it. I opened up the package and there it was...an autographed photo of President Ronald Reagan. He looked very official and my initial impression was, "Wow, he's got great head of hair." I also thought he was very generous to send along a glossy photo book, which had lots of pictures of The White House's interior decor. 
I asked my dad for a thumbtack and up the photo went- it hung right over my bed for about a year. It's funny to think of it now since my own political inclinations are far to the left. But at the time I was just a kid and I really liked that picture. 
I toyed with the idea of writing to President Obama and asking him for inauguration day tickets (or at least entrance to a party). But in the end I never got around to it. Instead we did what we always do when birthdays arrive...we celebrated with lots of good food. 

This year I had my birthday dinner at The Kitchen in Boulder. I can't say enough good things about that place. I didn't know what to expect since The Kitchen seems to pride itself on its close relationship with local food growers and it emphasizes seasonal produce. I mean it is the dead of winter, after all. Root cellar vegetables-- that's pretty much what comes to mind when I think of the winter. But my birthday dinner, that meal, was absolutely impeccable and extremely delicious...the chefs did an impressive job with the less than glorious bounty of mid-January. 
I've been trying to recreate the meal at home. So this is my attempt to figure out the starter soup: parsnip soup puree with sauteed mushrooms. I think it comes close enough...

There are so many good recipes out there. Some are basic, some are thick, some are complicated and have lots of ingredients and some use walnut pesto. In the end, I went with something fairly straightforward and simple. The result was a very satisfying rich soup, which I topped with sauteed shiitake mushrooms. Enjoy!
Parsnip Soup Puree with Sauteed Mushrooms
Inspired by the Kitchen Community (The Kitchen, Boulder) 
Heavily influenced by Orangette and Edible Brooklyn through this post
Yields 2-4 servings
Adjust the thickness of the soup by adding stock/water. Also season well with salt.
Soup:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 parsnips, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3/4 cup vegetable stock
3/4 cup water (with more for thinning out the soup)
salt, to taste
1/2 cup of heavy cream

Mushrooms:
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
2 large handful of shitake mushrooms
salt, to taste
large pinch of dried thyme or 2-3 fresh sprigs
1/2 cup of stock or water
Poached egg (optional)



Preparation: Soup
Peel the parsnips, trim and discard the ends, and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Put 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a large pot, over low-medium heat. Add the parsnips and carrots. Heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, mixing every few minutes. Add the vegetable stock and the water. Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the parsnips (and carrots) can easily be pierced with a fork, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or use an immersion blender. If you think the consistency is too thick, you can add additional water or stock. Pour the pureed soup back into the pot and stir in the cream.  
Taste for salt, and serve hot. Top with sauteed mushrooms and/or a poached egg. 

Preparation: Mushrooms
SautΓ© mushrooms in butter over medium-high heat until mushrooms start to brown and soften, about 4 minutes. Add salt. Add stock and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces to a glossy, stew-like consistency, about 4 more minutes. Remove thyme sprigs (if using fresh). Spoon mushrooms on top of parsnip soup puree.