Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fancy Mushroom Soup

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Ginger is a wonderful flavor. Grown in warmer climates (Australia, India, China, Jamaica), it isn't actually a root; it's a rhizome. We won't get into the difference here.

Available in many forms, we tend to associate it with savory Asian foods. Used fresh, we like it either grated or minced in a marinade or seasoning, or in chutneys. The powdered form is more likely to be used in sweets, such as ginger snaps or spice cakes. The candied form makes a great garnish for fresh fruits or tarts, and, as a bonus, is widely used as an antidote to nausea and morning sickness.

But I like to combine ginger with more "Western" flavors. In the winter, I like to start meals with soup. This particular recipe makes a wonderful first course. It could even be served in mugs to guests as they arrive on a chilly winter evening. Smooth and easy to sip, the zip of the ginger flavor gives a whole new dimension to cream of mushroom soup!


3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces portobello mushrooms, chopped
8 ounces white button mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 cups chicken or vegetables stock
1/2 cup crème fraîche (see note)
1/4 cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Powdered ginger for garnish

In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and the stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Puree in a blender, food processor, or with a hand blender. Stir in the creme fraiche. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

When ready to serve, beat the heavy cream with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Bring the soup back to a simmer and pour into soup cups or cappuccino cups. Top with dollops of the whipped cream and dust with powdered ginger. Serves 6 as a first course.

NOTE: Crème fraîche is a cultured French style cream, available in specialty markets. Similar in thickness to sour cream, it is slightly tangier but not as sour. And it has the advantage that it will not curdle upon boiling. You may substitute sour cream for the crème fraîche, but be very careful not to let it come to a boil when reheating to serve.

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