Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Given the fact that they have featured prominently in my last several posts, you might be getting the idea that we really like mushrooms. And you would be correct in that assumption, because we actually loooove them: as in, we love them so much that we would probably polygamously marry them if that were legal in the state of Massachusetts. (Baby steps, people: we shall overcome!) So get ready, because here comes another fungus-based recipe, this time an attempt to recapture the taste of a favorite childhood comfort food.

It's a sad fact that no matter how well we take care of ourselves, sometimes we get sick, especially at this time of the rolling year. In our house, we've had a recent visitation of generalized fatigue, muscle aches, stuffiness, and an overall stupid-headed feeling that necessitated a day or two of laying low, drinking tea, and - are we lucky or what?! - watching a Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel. Ask me about the episode in which Shakespeare is conjured by an aspiring writer via "black magic" to coauthor a cheezy TV pilot circa 1963, featuring Burt Reynolds as a poor man's Marlon Brando. No, seriously, ask me; I thought I was having febrile hallucinations. Worst of all, my lifelong hero came off as a bit of a hack; see gods, clay feet, etc. Sigh. (That said, if he wants to come back and help me with my current writing project, he needs only to ask.)

But I digress. My partner, wracked with malaise, expressed a wistful desire for the canned cream of mushroom soup of our youth: an idea which became a very maggot in my brain, especially after Shakespeare socked Burt Reynolds in the jaw. So once I'd had enough Rod Serling, I went down to the kitchen intending to gratify this wish. Now, it should go without saying that I am incapable of producing an exact copy of that canned elixir. For one thing, I haven't the first idea how to replicate its ribbed, cylindrical splendor - nothing rude about that - but I do know my way around a mushroom, and after nibbling a bit here and drinking a bit there, I came up with something pretty close, but even better. I believe it's the unexpected addition of coconut milk (thanks to the PPK for the tip!) that hits that "cream of" spot we all remember; whatever works, right? So get into your jammies, make a pot of this soup, and eat it in front of the television. Add toast and maybe a couple reruns of Scooby-Doo, and I promise everything will be all better.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
~ 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 cup vegan "chicken" broth
~ 1 15 oz. can "lite" coconut milk
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine), divided
~ 1/4 cup diced celery
~ 1/2 cup finely diced onion
~ 1 lb. chopped mushrooms
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: sage, rosemary
~ A few grinds fresh black pepper
~ 1/2 cup dry white wine
~ 2 tbsp. flour

~ In a bowl or large beaker, combine the vegetable broth, soy milk and coconut milk, and set aside.
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 tbsp. of the margarine and saute the celery and onions for about 5-7 minutes, until softened.
~ Add the mushrooms and seasonings, then cook about 10 minutes more.
~ Add the wine, stir thoroughly and cook another minute or two until some of then alcohol smell dissipates.
~ Cover the pot, bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
~ Continue cooking over low heat for another 10 minutes, checking occasionally to be sure it doesn't stick; add a splash of water if necessary.
~ In a saucepan, heat the remaining tbsp. of margarine over low heat and add the flour gradually to make a roux. Stirring constantly, add 1 cup of the broth/milk mixture until it begins to thicken. Set aside.
~ Pour the remaining broth/milk mixture into the vegetable mixture and simmer 15 minutes over low heat.
~ Add the thickened roux to the soup, and stir thoroughly to combine.
~ Adjust seasonings and puree the soup with an immersion blender (or transfer in batches to food processor or regular blender) until it reaches your desired degree of smoothness.
~ Serve with generously "buttered" (we recommend Earth Balance) toast for the perfect lunch or dinner when it's cold outside and you're feeling poorly.

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