We are going to have to establish a Mushroom Soup of the Every Other Month club. Who knew that there were so many really different ways of making good mushroom soup?
I am a newcomer to making mushroom soup. When I was growing up, my mom was the only one in the family who liked mushroom soup and she got hers out of a can. So I didn’t have a family soup tradition to draw on. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be many old Maine family recipes for this dish, either. Some of you, though, have sent along wonderful recipes most of them drawn from cookbooks or magazines, leading me to think that this soup may be a relative newcomer to our regional cuisine. Nevertheless, I have been making vats of the stuff here, and so far we have enjoyed it thoroughly.
The great thing is that there are lots of different kinds of mushrooms to work with, from the plain little white buttons to fresh portabellas and shiitakes to assorted wild dried mushrooms. If you are fortunate enough to have a friend expert at gathering wild ones, you can expand the selection further.
Most of the soups have a broth, cream, and call for milk or cream in varying amounts. You can make a luscious version simply by using a richer cream, and a lighter one by using milk and more flavorful mushrooms. Madeira crops up occasionally, and I hope you know that the alcohol cooks off and leaves flavor behind. White wine would probably work, too. Mushrooms are so hearty that meat broths are not absolutely required, which is good news for vegetarians.
The first recipe we will share here came from Donna Fancy in Belfast. She found it in a magazine and I have altered it slightly and streamlined the process somewhat. It calls for roasting the mushrooms in the oven before making a soup out of them. That deepens the flavor. She already had substituted evaporated milk for the cream and I followed her right along on that.
I made a full batch, good for eight to 10 servings, and having been reminded by Helen Varisco in Stonington that mushroom barley soup was a good thing, I cooked up some barley and added it to half the recipe and found I liked that very much.
One of the things about using recipes older than a couple of years is that they may call for a certain amount of a packaged product, is that in order not to raise prices, packagers put less into a container so it is likely you will find mushrooms in a 28-ounce package instead of two pound packages. So you have to select bulk mushrooms and put them in a bag to weigh, or do what I did, and get as close as you can. Really five or six mushrooms one way or another hardly makes that much difference.
I will be at the Good Table in Belfast (68 Main St.) from 1 to 3 p.m. today, demonstrating how to make 10 chowders with one recipe. It would be great to see you there (especially if it is raining and you can’t garden.) It is free and there will be samples, of course.
Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.