Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Bit of Comfort : Mushroom Soup with Bacon Croutons

Another month has gone by and when it comes to finding an office, I've come a full circle....except the knots are tighter in my neck and my 8am out-of-bed-bounce is considerably less springy.

I barely slept last night, thoughts running around my head like a Bull Terrier with CCB. After this evening's discovery that I'd been gazumped on Location B, I decided to forego my usual hair-pulling with a culinary escape to one of my favourite comfort foods, Mushroom Soup.

Who doesnt feel nostalgic about a big bowl of mushroom soup? I grew up on Campbell's, always using milk instead of water. So the Dolphin took me to the 24hr Cold Storage at Holland Village (there are some interesting characters to be found by the freezer section at night!) to stock up.

But first, a list:

  • My Popo likes her mushroom soup with lots of shitake
  • My dad loathes butter or cream in savoury dishes (but will devour a cream cake or croissant in a blink)
  • My mum likes her soup dark and full of bits
  • I'm not a big fan of shitake, but agree that its addition makes it more mushroomy
  • The Dolphin prefers his mushroom soup hearty but not gloopy
  • I think bacon and mushrooms are a lovely combination
  • My sis probably likes hers without mushrooms but she's not here, so tough!
Here's a version that I hope will please everyone.

Ingredients for 2 generous bowls, or 4 people on a diet (whatever!)
45 mins prep to table
1 sprig of rosemary, just the little leaves
1 sprig of sage
1 medium white onion
3 cloves of garlic
20g of butter and 25ml of olive oil

2 punnets (approx 400g) of button mushrooms (caps & stems)
150g of fresh shitake mushroom, caps only (the stems are usually too dry)
1 can of chicken broth
1/2 can of milk (I used semi-skimmed)

3 slices of streaky bacon
Some bread (preferably old, but nevermind if its not)

- Get a large saucepan, sprinkle a bit of water in it and put it on the heat at full power.
- When the water sizzles, disappears and the pan is perfectly dry, throw in the butter. When it starts to froth, add the herbs and then olive oil.
- Turn the heat off and let the herbs infuse while you prep the rest of the stuff.

- Finely slice the onions and garlic.
- Finely slice the mushrooms. I used my mandoline to get them really fine. You'll end up with a small mountain, but it reduces all the way down.

- Turn the heat back on until you hear the herbs sizzle then add the onions and garlic. Cook till the onions become translucent, but not brown.
- Add the mushrooms and mix everything up, getting the onions off the base
- Cook for about 5 mins, or until the mushies have reduced and given up their lovely mushroomy stock.
- Add the chicken stock and milk, then turn the heat down low and simmer with the lid on for 30 mins.

In the meantime,
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
- Splash a little olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the bacon on medium heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps but don't let it burn. Turn the heat off and remove the bacon, leaving the flavoured oil.
- Cut your bread into your favourite crouton sizes. I like lots of little ones. The Dolphin likes big ones. I usually do it my way.
- Toss the croutons in the oil. You just want to coat them evenly, not soak them until they go translucent.
- Lay them out on a layer of foil (or a baking tray) and pop them in the oven on a high shelf. Check after 10 mins to see if they're brown. If not, leave them a bit longer but keep checking them!
- Eat the crispy bacon on the sly.

- Check your soup when 30mins are up and taste for salt/pepper. Season accordingly.
- If you've got a food processor, whiz it around till it's smooth. Or pulse for more texture. However you like. Or use an immersion hand blender like me (I still haven't really figured out how not to splatter hot soup when I use it).

- Pour into bowls, drizzle with a little cream and sprinkle the croutons over the top. It's even yummier the next day...but who can wait?

You can make this a whole lot fancier using dried porcini, morels, truffle oil, sherry etc...but this is more than good enough for everyday. And I sho' do feel a lot better!

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