Daughter Eilene—who hates mushrooms—was off with her friends. I wanted to make some mushroom soup. Jan had also wanted a leek soup—a creamy soup that is mostly potatoes and leeks. I thought that I could combine two recipes to make a mushroom-y leek soup.
Mushrooms have a lot of the meaty flavor called umami. Using many different mushrooms left a muddled flavor—it did not taste of any particular mushroom. Using fewer mushrooms was actually an improvement.
Since I was only making soup for two, I decided to use only two mushrooms. Button mushrooms are a fairly bland mushroom, but the carry plenty of umami. The more strongly flavored Shitake mushrooms would provide most of the mushroom taste. To enhance these mushrooms flavor, I decided to sautéed them in butter. I had actually added sherry vinegar this soup, but it made an “off” sharp note. It was not very appealing, so I removed it from the posted recipe.
After Dinner Note: Jan though the last mushroom soup was the best she had ever had. She thought this one was “too mushroom-y.” I did not add any cream to this soup, and it may be necessary to “buffer” the mushroom flavor.
Karl’s Mushroom and Barley Soup
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
4 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 large Russet potato
3 Tbs. ghee, separate uses (or butter, vegetables oil for Vegan)
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (29 oz.) low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth for Vegan)
1 Tbs. soy sauce
½ tsp. thyme
½ tsp. marjoram
¼ tsp. black pepper
(Optional) sprigs of parsley
1. Wipe and slice the button and shitake mushrooms—keep each pile of mushroom separate and dry.
Tip: Remove and discard the tough stems of the shitake mushrooms.
Note: If you are the economical sort, save the stems to use in a vegetable stock.
2. Cut the green leaves from the white part of the leek and slice them into ¼ inch shreds.
3. Slice the white part of the leek in quarters lengthwise and sliced finely, keeping the white and green parts separately.
Tip: Slice down half the length of the leak, but do not cut it in half. Rotate the leek a quarter turn and slice down again. Half of your leek is now cut into quarters. Slice this end finely—the rest of the leek holds the sliced portion together making cross cutting evenly a snap. When you have sliced down to the end of your cuts, slice the leek lengthwise to about an inch from the end and continue cross cutting. If you do not trim off the root end while you are cleaning the leek, you can simply discard this last bit.
4. Peel and dice the potato.
5. Add a tablespoon of ghee to a soup pot over medium high heat.
Tip: How much butter and oil you use depends on your diet. I actually used about half of what I am recommending , because of Jan’s dietary restrictions.
Note: If you do not have ghee you may use just olive oil or a mix of butter and olive oil. The butter gives flavor, while the oil allows you to use a higher heat without burning the butter.
6. Add the button mushrooms and spread them out into a single layer.
Tip: You want to use a pan large enough that 8 eight ounces of sliced mushrooms are—mostly—in a single layer in contact with the heat of the pan.
Note: You may be tempted to start stir frying the mushrooms as soon as they hit the pan. Do not do this! Most mushrooms actually have a fair amount of moisture in them. Knocking them about releases the moisture, causing them to simmer in their own juices and prevents them from browning. Let the mushrooms lay for 2-3 minutes before flipping them over—if you are feeling brave you may use a pan flip. Let them cooked undisturbed on the second for 2-3 minutes, before stirring.
7. When the mushrooms are well browned, transfer ⅔ of them to one bowl and ⅓ to a separate small bowl.
8. Reduce the heat to medium and add another tablespoon of ghee.
9. Sauté the shitake and transfer them to the bowl with the button mushrooms.
Tip: Again divide the mushrooms between the bowls.
Note: The shitake are much drier than the other mushrooms. Keep a careful eye on them, as they will go from browned to burnt very quickly.
10. Increase the heat, back to medium high, and add the white parts of the leeks and salt to the pan.
Tip: There should be enough ghee left in the pan, but you may add more if you think it necessary.
11. Sauté the leeks until they are just starting to pick up some color, about 3-4 minutes.
12. Pull the leeks to the edges of the pan and add the garlic to the hole in the center.
13. Sauté the garlic until fragrant, about one minute, and then mix it into the leeks.
14. Transfer the leeks to the larger bowl and add some more ghee to the pot.
15. Sauté the green parts of the leeks until tender, about five minutes.
16. Transfer the green leeks to the smaller bowl and reserve.
17. Stir in a bit of broth to deglaze the pan.
18. Return the mushrooms and the contents of the larger bowl to the soup pot.
19. Stir the half of the rest of the broth, potatoes, the thyme, marjoram, and the pepper into the soup pot.
20. Simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.
21. Transfer the soup to a standing blender and process until smooth.
Tip: For a more rustic soup use a hand held blender directly in the soup pot.
22. Return the soup to the pot and rinse the blender out with the remaining broth.
23. Add the contents of the smaller bowl to the pot and simmer the soup for another 10 minutes.
24. Transfer the soup to individual bowls and (optionally) garnish with parsley.