One of the more elegant recipes in The Country Kitchen Soup Cookbook is “Mushroom Velvet”, available in both my OG and later editions. It’s a simple cream of mushroom soup made with onions and beef broth and then pureed with sour cream until smooth. It’s rich and meaty on its own but also a wonderful playground for variations.
I’ve used fresh shiitake mushrooms instead of white or brown grocery store mushrooms and substituted Mexican style sour cream to take off some of the edge. Creme Fraiche would be a suitable alternative, but I find that Crema Mexicana gives me the same result for a quarter of the price. I’ve topped the soup with Chinese black fungus for texture and added some chopped garlic chives for color. This is simply personal preference: I feel that a little bit of texture helps accentuate the sophistication and ‘smoothness’ of the soup. As an alternative you might cook a few extra shiitakes – finely chopped they’d make an equally elegant garnish. If you prefer your velvety soup to stay velvety you may omit the toppings or garnish altogether.
For the soup
- 1 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
- 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup butter
- 4 cups beef broth
- 2 cups Crema Mexicana (such as Darigold or Cacique brand)
- Add the black fungus to hot water (not boiling) and allow to soak for 30 minutes, until roughly doubled in size.
- Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and tender, taking care to minimize browning. Add mushrooms and continue to saute until tender, 8-10 minutes, stirring as needed to minimize browning.
- Remove from heat and stir in broth and crema, reserving 1/4 cup of the Crema Mexicana. Working in batches, blend until smooth in a blender or food processor. An immersion blender is a suitable alternative. Return to the cooking pot and heat through.
- Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with 1 Tbsp of the reserved crema. Garnish with fungus and garlic chives, divided evenly among each bowl.
Chinese black fungus (or cloud ear fungus) can be found thinly sliced and dried at most Asian markets. They don’t taste like much, but even when hydrated they have a little bit more crunch than your average mushroom. Wood ear fungus is an acceptable substitute, and in America the two may be sold under the same name.
Garlic chives, also sold as nira or Chinese leeks, look an awful lot like their American put-it-on-a-baked-potato counterparts but, unsurprisingly, taste more like garlic than onions. They are also grown and cultivated in Mexico and can be found fresh at well-stocked Asian markets. American chives or scallions are an acceptable substitute.