The Season for Soup

Gentle Reader: My friend, Steve, who also loves to cook nudged me to get busy again posting about my cooking adventures. He’s right. A string of personal and professional obligations has cut into my culinary time but, alas, my kitchen calls.

Here in western North Dakota we’ve had inordinately warm days for weeks–suspended in Indian Summer, leaves slowly turning, and only a hint of frost. Royse’s Produce stand is still open with pumpkins and melons spilling out into the parking lot. The Farmer’s Market is a cornucopia of peppers, potatoes, and winter squash. 

Maybe the arrival of cooling temperatures has triggered my appetite for homemade soup. Regardless, yesterday I was a “woman possessed” to make Hungarian Mushroom Soup and this, my all-time favorite, recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook. It has deep earthy flavors that comfort to the core.

I consider this an intermediate recipe. It’s not hard but it takes 2 pots and includes a separate operation to make the roux. Both can scare people off but, but trust me it’s worth the extra 10 minutes cooking and 2 minutes washing up the second pot. A roux is nothing more than cooking a mixture of fat (like butter or oil) and flour. Then milk is usually added to create a lovely silky cream sauce which thickens the end product. In this case it makes the soup heavenly velvet in your bowl.

The recipe calls for 12 ounces of mushrooms—sliced. I use 2 -8 oz. packages (1 of the white button mushrooms typically found in grocery stores and 1 of baby portabellas). I like the depth of flavor, color, and texture of the later. In the store I dig for the freshest possible mushrooms. To prepare the mushrooms, I keep the stems on the buttons–as long as they are also firm and fresh. But I usually end up discarding most of the stems from the baby portabellas. This nets about 12 ounces . . . give or take.

One substitution I highly recommend: While the recipe calls for milk I use half and half. Even whole milk would barely create the necessary richness one finds in a good restaurant version of this delicacy. So don’t go using “blue milk” since this is not the time to do the “lite” thing.

Lastly, the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon Hungarian Paprika and I found using everyday paprika is a little bland. So I bought some smoked paprika and I split the tablespoon—half regular and half smoked paprika. Mushroom Magic.


About Bonnie Larson Staiger

I'm a poet. Writing is an extension of who I am. On my blog, North Dakota Roots, I share some poetry and some observations about life.
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