Here’s a lovely first course. It’s rich, creamy and elegant. It’s a perfect cold-and-snowy-in-front-of-the-fireplace dinner, but it’s pretty good any time, for that matter. This soup makes any meal extra special, even a Wednesday night supper. The Goddess has a head cold. You’ll have to forgive her, as she’s even more nutso than usual. She’s not sleeping well and as you know, sleep deprivation can make people crazy…so…. Well, she had made this soup for Wednesday dinner, so she had this nice big bowl of leftover soup. So, she dumped as much spicy “stuff” into her bowl, along with a bunch of herbs. She does this when she has a head cold. Herbs and chiles have histamines in them and histamines are the things than give us the sniffles. At times like these, sniffles are so, so, so welcome.
Many years ago, when she was but a young lass, she went to see her doctor, because she had one of these mind-numbing, mind-blowing (quite literally), nose-blowing head colds. It was the mother of all head colds. So she told her doctor, Dr. John Hopkins…I kid you not, that she wanted some antibiotics to “nip this in the bud”. He told her that he wasn’t going to prescribe any such thing, because the cold was still viral and all the antibiotics in the world weren’t going to fix that or “cure” her cold. Did I mention that he was a pharmacist as well, so the man knew drugs?! He asked her if she had herbs and chiles in her cupboard…seriously? He told her that those Jewish mother’s and their chicken soup were onto something. So the prescription was as follows—a good chicken broth-y soup with as many herbs as possible and with as much spicy heat as she could handle. He told her to have the tissue box near by. The man is brilliant. It worked.
So The Goddess went back to what she knows works. She has a blend she made that she calls “Hinges of Hell”. It has about six different ground chiles in it, including both ghost chile and cayenne powders. She’s had it around for awhile, so it wasn’t as screaming hot as it was originally. So, she tossed in some sriracha, too…you know, just because it’s so damn tasty.
So here she is, writing this, but able to once again, breathe! It’s what she’s always done since that original teaching moment. Her favorite sinus-opening experience is egg rolls with really good, homemade Chinese mustard and spiced up Szechuan food to follow. But, this soup is a good place to start…this was breakfast! So you see, you can eat your way to health!
Back to the soup, you want the mushrooms to shine here. This goes together very quickly, about 20 minutes from start to finish, once the mushrooms are rehydrated.I used both dried (rehydrated) and fresh mushrooms. The rehydrated dried mushrooms are there on the left; do NOT toss that “mushroom liquor”, because you’re going to add it to the soup later. If you don’t have dried mushrooms, just use extra fresh ones. Just, use a heap of mushrooms. But, take the time to sauté the mushrooms (both fresh and rehydrated, dry mushrooms). You want to do this slowly, to concentrate the flavor. I used canned pumpkin, because the pumpkin is more of a back flavor. The pumpkin adds a bit of sweetness and color. But, oddly it enhances the savory aspect of the mushrooms, too. Pour in the “mushroom liquor” to loosen the mixture up a bit. You may need to add part of the broth at this point. Now, you have a decision to make. Do you want to purée the soup for a velvety smooth mouth feel, with a few bits of mushrooms? Or do you want to leave it as is, a bit on the chunky side? Either way, the flavor is deliciously rich, earthy and decidedly mushroom-y.
You more or less just dump everything together, simmer for a few minutes to meld the flavors (stir it every now and then), and then add the cream or evaporated milk. I prefer the evaporated milk, because it’s a little sweeter and I always have some in the cupboard. It’s also a little easier in the calorie department. If you want this soup to have a more pronounced pumpkin flavor use the entire 15-ounce can (I did add the whole can). If you do, use the extra cup of broth. As I said, this is a very savory soup, so if you want to add a touch of sweetness, drizzle each serving with a bit of honey or maple syrup. There are all sorts of possibilities. Do try it as is, though. That’s right. The Goddess is telling you not to change the recipe…she’s such a ninny!
Cream of Pumpkin-Mushroom Soup with Sherry
- 1 cup dried mushrooms (about 1 ounce)
- Hot water to just cover
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 cup finely minced sweet onion
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2-3/4 teaspoon garlic granules
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, diced
- 3/4-1 cup pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 teaspoon porcini mushroom powder (see NOTE)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
- 4-5 cups chicken, mushroom or vegetable broth
- Reserved mushroom stock (about 1 cup or more)
- 1 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup dry sherry or brandy
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Crème fraîche, for garnish (if too thick, thin with some milk)
- Toasted pecans, finely chopped (or crumbled bacon)
In a large bowl, place the dried mushrooms; cover with the hot water and set aside for at least 15 minutes or until the mushrooms soften.
While the mushrooms rehydrate, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, thyme and garlic granules in 2 tablespoons of the butter until they soften, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Squeeze the liquid out of the mushrooms; reserve the liquid. Chop the mushrooms. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and all of the mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms soften and are tender, about 5 minutes. Now you need to decide the consistency of your soup—
For a chunky soup: Whisk in the pumpkin, nutmeg and the reserved mushroom broth until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, except the cream/evaporated milk, and simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the mixture thicken slightly. Add the cream; heat, but do not allow the mixture to boil, about 1 minute.
For a smooth soup: Add the mushroom broth to the soup pot. Add part of the chicken broth, if you need to loosen the mixture further. Either purée in a blender or preferably use an immersion blender directly in the pan. Purée until almost smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients, except the cream/evaporated milk, and simmer gently, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the mixture thicken slightly. Add the cream; heat, but do not allow the mixture to boil, about 1 minute.
To serve, taste the soup and correct the seasoning. This soup will be much better if you make it early in the day and reheat it. Soup can be made up to 3 days ahead. Refrigerate and reheat gently. Remember, when you reheat the soup, do not boil, or the milk may curdle.
Garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche and a dusting of finely chopped toasted pecans.
NOTE: Porcini mushroom powder is simply dried porcini mushrooms ground to a powder. You can make your own, or you can purchase it already ground for The Spice Mill. They have it, but at this time it isn’t on their website.
Cream of Pumpkin-Mushroom Soup with Sherry Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2016. All rights reserved.
Doesn’t it taste fantastic? Just a note—this is a nice soup to have after a shop-’til-you-drop Black Friday experience. Make the soup before you go out and have it sitting in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, reheat it very gently, toss in some torn up bits of leftover turkey and maybe even some of that leftover green bean casserole and you have the perfect dinner. Enjoy any day you decide to serve this soup. Good health to you and yours!