Sunday’s are for exploring; especially if it’s a bright, sunny Spring day like last Sunday. Living in Delaware, exploring places off the beaten path means just traveling 30 minutes in any direction. Just North, over the border into Pennsylvania are the towns of Avondale and Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, known here as mushroom country. Imagine lush, rolling green hills, bright blue skies with billowy clouds, postcard-perfect cows munching on sweet grass, and a peat-mossy aroma hanging in the air.
In the town of Avondale, there is a little unassuming shop with a sign out front that says M.Cutone Mushroom Company – Open 7 days. It’s a no-frills kind of place, but what you purchase from the old man behind the counter is pure excellence and elegance, plus a bargain at $10 for 5 pounds of fresh-cut mushrooms harvested only a few hours earlier.
I couldn’t resist opening them then and there in the front seat of my car. What a beautiful sight!
This mushroom soup recipe was the result of much deliberation and experimentation and combining of different recipes and approaches to this classic soup. Don’t skimp on quantities of mushrooms and variety is the key to flavor in this earthy and rich soup. Serve a cup of this soup before a light meal or enjoy with a salad as a nice lunch option. Definitely try a few drops of lemon swirled into your soup just before eating, easy does it, but the flavor pop is great. It takes a little effort, but I think you’ll see it’s worth the while.
My personal twist on this classic? Fresh thyme and bacon. Everything is better with bacon, right? This soup’s flavors develop over time, so if you can, make the soup with the chicken stock on day one and let it marry the flavors. On day two, heat up the concentrate and add your milk or cream for a beautiful and earthy soup with soul!
My note to you, endeavor to take the road less-traveled. Make your meal an adventure. Go where the locals shop, and ask questions, lots of questions of people who are passionate about what they are selling. What special ingredient inspiration lies around the next corner? We shall see! Enjoy!
- 4 + cups of cleaned, sliced mixed variety mushrooms (discard stems of woody mushrooms, keep stems of button, portabella and cremini mushrooms)
- 1/4 lb. bacon, approximately four slices diced and fried into crumbles (reserve bacon fat)
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, de-stemmed
- 1 large stalk of celery, minced
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1/4 bunch, approx 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley chopped fine and de-stemmed
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup whole milk, 1/2 and 1/2, or cream (add at end)
- dash nutmeg
- fresh ground salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lemon (optional)
- Minced Parsley
- Garlic Crostini
- In a large saute pan on medium-high heat, start with frying bacon crumbles and reserve pan grease. (Hint: I keep a lb. of bacon in the freezer and cut across the slices so that I can make easy crumbles for soups and salads.) Strain bacon crumbles from pan and drain on paper towels.
- In medium-sized soup pan, heat broth of your choice to a simmer on medium to medium-low heat.
- Add 1/2 of minced onion and celery to the bacon fat in the pan and add a twirl of olive oil. Once onion starts to turn translucent on the edges, add 1/2 of minced garlic and 2 cups of mushrooms. Add approximately 1/2 minced parsley and fresh thyme leaves to the pan. Add fresh salt and pepper to taste. Saute until mushrooms have lost their liquid and begin to brown on the edges and caramelize. Turn heat down if mushrooms are cooking too quickly.
- Place cooked mushrooms in soup pot with simmering broth.
- Repeat step 3 — using butter and olive oil in place of bacon fat. Saute remaining mushrooms, with remaining celery, garlic, onions, and parsley. (Hint: If you try to cook all mushrooms together, they will not lose their moisture properly, caramelize, and concentrate their flavors. This step takes approximately 20 minutes.) Reserve a minimum of 1/2 cup of cooked mushrooms for garnish in a bowl to the side. Add remaining mushrooms to simmering stock and allow to simmer on low for an additional 20 minutes.
- Use a stick blender in the pan, or remove soup carefully to a blender for processing. You are looking for a nice consistent texture that will contrast with the rustic texture of the sauteed mushroom and bacon garnish.
- Continue heating soup on low and add salt/ground pepper to taste. Add a dash of nutmeg to brighten flavors.
- (Stop here if making this soup ahead)
- Make sure soup is not at a boil and add milk or cream until heated through. Stir often and taste for and seasoning adjustments. Allow flavors to meld for an additional 10 minutes with lid on.
- Serve 1 cup portions in your favorite decorative soup bowls and garnish with a nice pile of sauteed mushrooms, bacon crumbles, and a dash of fresh parsley. Add a few drops of fresh lemon to dish as a garnish to make flavors pop. Enjoy with easy garlic crostini.
- 1/2 loaf of rustic bread
- Extra Virgin olive oil
- fresh peeled garlic clove(s)
- sea salt
Toast medium-thin slices of your favorite type of rustic bread in toaster. Rub fresh garlic clove all over top of toast. Drizzle with your favorite Extra Virgin olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite sea salt. Addictive and yummy!