Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

In these parts, it’s not been particularly cold this winter, but the sun rarely shone (or is it shined?) leaving us with gloomy days and even gloomier moods!  Apparently, we had a visit from a comet (not the famous reindeer, but an actual celestial object consisting of ice and dust and a gassy tail), PanStarrs, visible for a few days in March.  Perhaps the sun just doesn’t like intruders....a this is my dance space; this is your dance space sort of thing.

Regardless, our dismal days continue to be the perfect excuse to serve soup and Foodie made a delicious Mushroom and Wild Rice version from Cooks Illustrated.  Foodie is so funny…she said-- in a rare move --, she “followed the recipe exactly,” except she substituted brandy for sherry, because she didn’t have any sherry in the house.  As you know from previous posts, she is an excellent cook and is always tinkering with recipes to produce satisfying flavors.  We, of course, never complain because the results are always delicious despite her customizations.

This recipe is from the January/February 2013 edition of Cooks Illustrated.  I talk about why I love Cooks Illustrated in this post, but I offer another reason.  Not only do I enjoy the way CI dissects recipes into comprehensible parts, but they also enlighten the reader with beautifully written nuggets of information about the ingredients they use.  For instance, in the article that precedes this recipe, the author, Celeste Rogers, talks about wanting to give the mushrooms an unmistakable presence in this recipe.  She instructs that she sautéed a full pound of cremini mushrooms in a Dutch oven saying she “was left with a fond at the bottom of the pot that [she] easily liberated with a generous pour of sherry.  A few minutes of reduction left [her] with a fortified mushroom concentrate to which [she] added chicken stock (for savory depth) and water before stirring in the cooked rice.”  

Culinary prose is so evocative…and mouth watering.

The nuttiness of the rice and the meatiness of the mushrooms combine nicely to give this soup the earthy quality that makes it so delicious.  Additionally, the dried shiitake mushrooms are “ground into a powder and stirred it into the broth for full-bodied mushroom flavor” and using the rice’s leftover cooking liquid boosted the flavor of the wild rice.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup
From:  January/February 2013 Cooks Illustrated

¼ ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
4 ¼ cups of water
1 sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, plus 4 cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup wild rice
tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 pound of cremini mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed and sliced
1 finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2/3 cup dry sherry
4 cups of chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup fresh chives, minced
¼ teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated.

Heat oven to 375°.  Grind shiitake mushrooms in a spice grinder until finely ground, this will net about 3 tablespoons. I suppose you could also use a mini food processor.

Bring 4 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf, garlic clove, ¾ teaspoon sale, and baking soda to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.  Add rice and return to boil.  Cover saucepan, transfer to over, and bake until rice is tender, 35-5- minutes.  Strain rice trough fine-mesh strainer set in a 4 cup liquid measuring cup (to reserve), discard the thyme, bay leaf and garlic.  Add enough water to the reserved liquid to measure 3 cups.

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over a high heat.  Add cremini mushrooms, onion, minced garlid, tomato paste, ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and a dark fond develops at the bottom of the pot, about 15 minutes.  Add sherry, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until reduced and the pot is almost dry, about 2 minutes.  Add ground shiitake mushroom, reserved rice-cooking water (complete with its nutty starchiness), broth, and soy sauce and bring to a boil.  Recue heat to low and simmer, covered, until onion and mushrooms are tender, about 20 minutes.

"Fond” is from the French word for "bottom." In the culinary world, it means those little roasty bits that gather at the bottom of the pot follwing the browning process.

Whisk cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup of water in a small bowl.  Stir cornstarch slurry into the soup, return to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Remove pot from heat and stir in cooked rice, cream, chives and lemon zest.  Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve topped with some additional chopped chives.

Architect contributed the most creamy and delectable Goat Cheese Cheesecake  made with a ginger-snap crust.  We also had homemade Irish Soda Bread and I'll post the easy recipe tomorrow in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day.

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