Monday, February 11, 2008
There's 2.5 Pounds of Fungus Among Us
I love mushrooms. I love mushrooms so much that, as alluded to in my introductory post, my perfect meal at a previous point in my life would have included a bowl of cream of mushroom soup. Hell, it still might, but it probably wouldn't be that Campbell's slop I ate all the time as a kid. There's just something awesome about how they can sop up all the flavors around them and retain their own meaty earthiness. I'm also entertained by how some people I know are completely terrified by them since they grow in the dark! I guess mushrooms growing from some forgotten spilled beer in a closet would give me the heebie-jeebies too though. Maybe.
The Mushroom Barley Soup recipe from the Daily Soup Cookbookcalls for 2.5 lbs of mixed wild mushrooms. The thought of buying that much shroomage seemed a bit daunting to me, but I went off to Whole Foods and stood in front of their mushroom section for an inordinately long time, trying to decide what would be the most tasty and cost-effective mushroom combination, since I'm a cheap bastard who is now in debt again with a car loan (we'll talk finances another day). I ended up with a pound of regular white button mushrooms, about 3/4 lb criminis, and then a few oyster mushrooms and two portabellas, which I guess don't properly fall into the wild mushroom category for some reason but hell, I like 'em.
Hacking off the stems and then slicing all the mushrooms took a fair amount of time. The stems went to making mushroom stock, and then the rest of the recipe was pretty basic - the usual mirepoix and aromatics, then dump everything in the pot and let it hang out for a while for Maximum Flavor Infusion. The pearl barley kind of scared me since I've never used it before, and they were tiny, but after about an hour or so they became the fluffy barley things I'm used to, and they lended a nice grainy flavor to the soup.
Overall, it was pretty good but I think I'd not use the portabellas again - they were a bit too meaty for me in the soup. Also, using lots of parsley makes for some nice green colors in pictures but doesn't actually taste that great. Woops. I thought the soup could have been a little richer than it was - maybe a touch of butter at the end might help, or maybe adding... something to the mushroom stock. Maybe I should just take out the barley and dump heavy cream in it, which seems to always make things better if I'm going to eat something. I'll have to think about that one.