One chilly Thanksgiving morning with the daunting specter of soon-to-arrive guests swirling through my mind, I spied a bin, pregnant with awe-inspiring clusters of silky, pale gray oyster mushrooms. The mushroom scene and the nervous-hostess timing of it all inspired the recipe for this meaty, meatless soup. Vegetarians have long exalted mushrooms for their nutrition, meaty texture, and subtle earthy flavors. I’ve loved them ever since I found two French pals, who would regularly pick fresh-from-the-forest cèpes (aka porcini) from the woods surrounding their home. On especially lucky days, they would call me and invite me over to share a simple cèpe omelet made with farm-fresh eggs and a “coup” of Blanquette de Limoux, a sparkling wine from the region. Pure, unsolicited bliss, indeed!
This recipe wastes nothing, as the tough stems or “feet” from the mushrooms are used to prepare the stock that becomes the base for the soup. This is a show stopper of a first course for Thanksgiving dinner.
Adapted from "Southern Farmers Market Cookbook" by Holly Herrick.
For the mushroom stock:
For the soup:
For the stock:
Heat the oil and butter together in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook or “sweat” gently, about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables release their juices and soften.
While that’s going on, trim the very base of the mushrooms and discard. Wipe down the mushrooms — do not rinse or submerge in water — with a paper towel to remove any dirt. Gently pull the feet off the caps of all the mushrooms and chop coarsely; reserve the caps for later. Add the mushroom feet to the pot and stir to coat; season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add the dry vermouth, increase the heat to high, and cook down to a glaze. Add the water and parsley bundle, bring the stock to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook for 20-25 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer or chinois and reserve the stock, discarding the solids.
For the soup:
Melt together the butter and oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, shallot, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced/chopped mushroom caps, stir, and cook until softened. Increase the heat to high and add the vermouth. Cook down to a glaze and add the porcini oil, stock, and herbs de Provence. (Note: Any remaining stock can be refrigerated or frozen for use at a later date.) Bring to a boil and simmer together for about 20 minutes, or until the flavors are well developed.
Taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, add the cream and butter, if desired. Stir until heated through and serve immediately. Garnish with finely chopped fresh parsley or thyme.