I love the cold weather; going on evening walks on the streets of The Hague, feeling the crisp air stroking my cheeks, flushing them.
I love that the leaves are turning to all shades of yellow and orange. S pokes fun at me when I try to step on each crunchy leaf I see on the street but that doesn't stop me. I like the sound they make.
I love the smell of lit fireplaces in those first cold nights of autumn, when the slow burning wood emits such a sweet smell that penetrates my nostrils, bringing back memories.
I love sitting on my favorite armchair reading freshly bought cookbooks with that new book smell that reminds me of my school days, when all I wanted was a brand new school bag, lots of well sharpened pencils and fluorescent colored pens.
I love baking my first cookies of the season, yearning for a taste of home.
I love sleeping in; staying tucked in bed while the wind that has been asleep for so many months is now howling outside.
I love the cravings that I have for all kinds of foods aimed to warm me up, body and soul.
I love soup.
I love mushroom soup.
I love that earthy, meaty, umami flavor of mushrooms that is best enjoyed in the form of soup. Not that blended up thing though, where everything is mashed into oblivion, where the textures disappear and the flavors are masked by too much cream, no. A mushroom soup where each slice of mushroom is visible, its texture adding to the tasting experience and its flavor distinct and present in every mouthful.
Cremini and chanterelle mushrooms, soft leeks, thyme, a dollop of créme fraiche. Simplicity in all its glory. Cremini mushrooms are the older cousins of the button mushroom with a slightly richer flavor and a brown appearance whereas the chanterelles are the golden yellow, wild mushrooms of the forest. Their fruity aroma, reminiscent of the apricots and peaches of late summer, and their meaty, chewy texture are perfect for an autumnal soup. The sweet leeks complement the full flavor of the mushrooms giving a light sweetness to the dish. The thyme imparts its earthy, herbal aroma and the créme fraiche adds a luscious note that makes all the ingredients come together beautifully. Served with a glass of Viognier, it's magical.
It's really no wonder this soup is on my mind when autumn knocks on my door.
Mushroom Soup with Leeks and Thyme
Adapted from Rick Rodgers
This soup is very easy to prepare—the "hardest" part being the slicing of the mushrooms and leeks—and it only needs about 40 minutes of cooking in total. It's amazing how so few ingredients can yield so much flavor.
This soup is perfect for lunch or for a light supper paired with a couple of slices of crusty bread, and it makes an ideal first course for a dinner.
Créme fraiche is like sour cream but thicker and less sour. If you can't find it, use cream, whipped to soft peaks.
If you can't find cremini mushrooms (which are nothing but small portobello mushrooms), substitute with large portobello mushrooms cut into small pieces or even white button mushrooms.
If you can't find fresh chanterelles, use dried (15 g for this recipe plus their liquid).
Read this on how to reconstitute dried mushrooms and how to store them properly.
Yield: 6-8 first-course servings
100 g unsalted butter
450 g fresh cremini mushrooms
150 g fresh chanterelle mushrooms
125 g leeks (about 1 ½ large leek), white and pale green parts only
40 g all purpose flour
820 ml chicken stock, good quality
60 ml medium-dry sherry, like Amontillado
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
150 g créme fraiche for serving
Special equipment: mushroom brush, colander
Use a soft brush designed especially for cleaning mushrooms to clean the fresh mushrooms. Otherwise use a damp cloth to clean off the dirt and grit. Don't immerse the mushrooms into water when cleaning them because they are porous and tend to absorb a lot of water—you will end up with flavorless mushrooms. If the mushrooms are too dirty, rinse them quickly under slowly running water and drain them on kitchen paper. If you can't get rid of any dirty spots, use a small sharp knife and cut off those parts.
Cut the cremini mushrooms into 0.6 cm-thick slices. Make sure you cut off and discard the hard lower part of the stems.
Don't cut the chanterelles with a knife but tear them into smaller pieces with your hands. If they are small just leave them as they are.
Dice the leek. Using a sharp knife, cut off the root portion of the leek as well as the dark green leaves which will leave you with the body of the leek (white and pale green part). Cut it in half lengthwise and then cut these two pieces in half lengthwise. Cut these pieces into 0.6 cm squares. Rinse the leeks under running water and place them on a colander to drain.
In a medium-sized stock pot, melt 35 g of the butter over medium-high heat and when it's hot (but not smoking) add half of the mushrooms. Sauté them, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, for about 5 minutes. Transfer them, along with their juices, into a bowl.
In the same pot, melt 35 g of the butter until hot and then add the rest of the mushrooms, cooking them in the same manner as the others. Transfer them, along with their juices, into the same bowl.
The reason we don't sauté all the mushrooms together is because of their large volume—they will boil rather than sauté.
In the same pot, melt the rest 30 g of the butter and when it gets hot add the leeks. Stir them well and put the lid on the pot. Turn heat down to medium and let leeks cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until they soften.
Then add all the mushrooms, along with their juices, to the pot, sprinkle with the flour and stir until flour is evenly distributed.
Add the chicken stock, the sherry, (at this point, if you're using dried mushrooms add them along with their juices/read this on how to reconstitute them first), salt (be careful not to use too much in case the chicken stock you use is already salted), freshly ground black pepper and ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves. Stir everything and bring soup to the boil, stirring often.
Reduce heat to low, set lid ajar and simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve the soup while still hot in small soup bowls, adding a dollop of créme fraiche on top and sprinkling with fresh thyme leaves.
The soup is even tastier the next day. If you want to serve it at a dinner party, you can make it the previous day, leaving you with enough time to prepare the rest of your dishes on the day.