We walk around all day with hungers bubbling up inside us: hunger for success, and for love, for security; hunger to be seen, to connect, to matter. We go about our days, walk the city, our hungers clawing at our insides. And then amidst all of these more intangible hungers, there are sparks of hunger pains that can be more easily answered. To have people walk through my door, and be able to satiate one of their hungers? To be able to soothe, satisfy, nourish? It’s endlessly gratifying.
I’ve been unpacking boxes that were in storage while we were in New York, and by far the most fun to open were those containing my cookbooks. Thumbing through Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Dinners, I came across a gorgeous-looking mushroom soup. I love mushrooms, and when a quick look at the ingredient list showed it didn’t contain cream, I was sold.
The next day, I walked to the market, where I picked up a mix of fresh mushrooms- big, fat Portobellos, a delicate cluster of oyster mushrooms, their skins a deep shimmering brown, and a handful of snowy buttons. A stand was selling fresh shiitake mushrooms, as well as dried ones, so I used those instead of the dried porcini the recipe called for. A big bunch of fresh thyme and a small tub of mascarpone, and I was ready to head home.
Back in the kitchen, I placed the dried shiitake in a bowl, and covered them with hot water, the water turning a deep brown, the mushrooms softening up like sponges. I chopped the fresh mushrooms and sautéed them in a large pot with garlic and thyme, until they began to release their juices. Next, I diced the dried mushrooms, and added them to the pot, along with their soaking water, cooking the mushrooms until the liquids nearly evaporated, before adding the vegetable stock and letting it simmer, infusing the apartment with a heady, woodsy smell. I had to run out to pick something up, and when I came home, I ate a bowl of mushroom soup, its warmth welcome after the frosty outdoors: the flavors layered and complex, rich, earthy, fragrant.
The next evening, the city dark and stormy and restless with wind, I invited a few friends over for dinner. A half hour before they were due to arrive, I set the table, lit candles, and took the soup out of the fridge. I toasted thin slices of baguette and sautéed a panful of mushrooms to make little crostini with which to top the soup, along with dollops of mascarpone. When they arrived, we opened a bottle of wine, and my house filled with voices and laughter.
Jamie Oliver’s Wild Mushroom Soup
from Jamie’s Dinners
small handful of dried porcini mushrooms (I used dried shiitake)
600 grams (21 oz) mixed fresh mushrooms (such as button, portobello, shiitake, oyster, etc.), roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red onion, diced
pat of butter
small handful of fresh thyme leaves
salt + pepper
5 cups (1 liter) vegetable stock
handful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons mascarpone
truffle oil (optional; to drizzle before serving)
Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Meanwhile, place a big pot over medium heat, and add a generous swirl of olive oil. Add the fresh mushrooms, and sautee, stirring, for about a minute. Add the garlic, onion, butter, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper.
A minute later, the mushrooms should begin to release their juices. Dice the porcini mushrooms, and add them to the pot; strain their soaking water, and add it to the pot as well. Cook for 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Add the vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, and cook at a simmer for another 20 minutes.
Jamie Oliver notes he usually transfers half of the soup to a food processor, purees it, and returns it to the pot; I blended the soup until the mushrooms were reduced to tiny bits, but not quite pureed, using a stick blender.
Stir in the parsley and mascarpone, and adjust seasonings to taste.