This potato mushroom soup uses homegrown Maine potatoes and locally sourced chestnut mushrooms. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

The potato harvest, a plentiful one this year in Maine, plus bountiful mushrooms raised locally or foraged or simply fresh from the produce section, combine with cooling weather this week to create a hankering for soup.

This household is lucky enough to have a young neighbor, Dustin, who raises and sells a variety of mushrooms. This week he had a variety named chestnut which we acquired. Dustin said that a lot of beautiful mushrooms are sprouting in the woods for those who know what they are looking at. I’ve done minimal foraging, too uncertain about the various wild ones to trust my judgment. I am glad we can pick from Dustin’s harvest.

As did potatoes generally in the state, my patch did very well this year, with plenty for winter into spring. Housemate Cris looked over the crop and formed plans for soup, adding in the chestnut mushrooms. When the day turned chilly, cloudy and windy, we agreed on a soup supper with crusty bread, spread this time around with Cambazola (a blend of Camembert and Gorgonzola cheeses) and warmed briefly on the stovetop.

This soup can swing in a vegetarian direction with a milky broth, or take a turn into omnivore territory with the addition of bacon or ham. We scooped out a portion of the soup for vegetarian Brynn, then added bacon to the rest. A fire in the living room stove felt good, so we clustered around it with our big mugs of soup and made “mmm” noises. Some of us soaked our cheese-slathered bread in our soup.

You’ll make this soup so easily because all you do is start with some chopped up onion sauteed briefly in olive oil, to which you add peeled and diced potatoes. You cook those in a little water, then divide them, mashing half with butter and milk to thicken the soup and leaving the rest chunky. You saute the chopped up mushrooms in some olive oil, then add them to the pot, finish up with additional milk to create your preferred texture of soup, season with salt and pepper, then add fried bacon crumbles or ham bits. You can even consider frying the bacon and then using some of the bacon fat to cook the mushrooms.

With recipes like this, it’s a good idea to reckon quantities by counting out as many medium sized potatoes as you have people to serve. A bigger onion for more people and a smaller one for one or two of you. Mushrooms shrink in cooking so a 12-ounce package will serve four, though if you really like mushrooms you might want more. The amount of milk varies with your preference, though you ought to start with 2 cups for four people then add more to taste to make as thick or thin a soup as you prefer. The directions below made supper for four with two having seconds and there was soup leftover for lunch next for the first one who got to it.

Potato Mushroom Soup

Makes six to seven servings

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

Water

Butter to taste

2 cups of milk, half and half, or evaporated milk

12 ounces mushrooms, chopped

4 slices of bacon or more to taste, fried and chopped

Salt and pepper

Put a tablespoon of oil in your soup pot and cook onions over medium heat until they are just tender.

Add the potatoes and just enough water to cover them. Cook until they are fork tender.

Scoop out half of the potatoes and mash them in a separate bowl or pan with a couple tablespoons of butter, optional, and a cup or more of milk, as much as needed to create smooth mashed potatoes.

Add the mashed potatoes back to the soup pot, and another cup or two of milk, and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in a pan with enough olive oil — a couple tablespoons — to keep them from sticking.

Stir the cooked mushrooms back into the soup pot.

Reduce the heat to low and cook the soup for half an hour. Add more milk if you prefer a thinner soup.

Add the bacon or save for garnish.

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...