The holidays have come and gone and I have been somewhat remiss with my posts. This is perhaps a bit ironic, because it is the time of year when I cook constantly — for parties, family, and friends — and yet, I seem not to have found the time to write, much less photograph, most of it.
Somewhat belatedly, I note that we made a lovely dinner on Christmas Eve. Cooking the Christmas Eve meal is a communal affair that usually occurs at my mother’s home, in which everyone helps and does a little of this and a little of that. Somehow, at the end of it all, we find ourselves with a smorgasbord of food. This year was a little quieter, and rather than the chaos of 20 people slicing, sprinkling, assembling, and talking all at once, we had only our family and my uncle’s family for dinner.
With fewer than 10 people, our numbers were small enough for a sit-down meal at our dining table, and it was decided the fine china would emerge. I served cream of mushroom soup as the first course. My sister receives the initial credit for this soup. Some years ago, she served it for Christmas Eve lunch and we raved about it. Barely a drop was left.
The original recipe belongs to Ina Garten and can be found here. Ina Garten also provides the recipe for making a light mushroom stock for use in the soup, which works nicely. In the past, I have substituted a combination of an organic beef broth and an organic vegetable broth, (instead of homemade mushroom stock), which adds some complementary depth to the soup without stripping away any of its über-mushroomy intensity.
My blender and I have also changed the recipe somewhat. I wanted the soup to have a thick, velvety quality, which also looks nicer for a more formal presentation. My immersion blender does a very good job but my standing blender purees the soup into velvety submission. I sprinkle a little bit of finely minced parsley into the soup just before serving. I also sauté cremini and shitake mushrooms in butter and, once crispy, top the soup with them.
I am a fan of the mushroom, and this soup has changed mushroom soup forever. It is so good that I want to drink it. You may want to lick the spoon every time you stir the soup (don’t). Mushroom substitutions work well here – use complementary mushroom flavors. A note to the mushroom uninitiated: the stronger mushrooms will drown out the delicate ones. A drop of truffle oil on top at the end is bliss.