Austin360Cooks: Cream of Mushroom Soup from @maggiecperkins

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We’ve featured recipes from Maggie Perkins of Notes from Maggie’s Farm before, but she’s always coming up with good stuff, so it’s time to revisit what’s going on in her kitchen.

A few weeks ago, she wrote about making a homemade cream of mushroom soup in a way that I thought would be helpful for those of us who only know the goop from a can. (Perkins’ dish first caught my eye in our #Austin360Cooks project. You can share what you’re cooking by adding the hashtag to your posts on social media, and you can browse the recently submitted images in the gallery below the recipe.)

She sautes a variety of mushrooms in batches and then gently simmers them with thyme, parsley and scallion in half-and-half and whole milk. I always fear that I’m oversalting creamy soups, but Perkins reminds me that dairy soups need an extra kick of salt and pepper for the seasoning to come through.

Mushrooms are available nearly year-round here from Kitchen Pride, a grower in Gonzales that sells at both smaller farmers markets and to large retailers, and now is a good time to pull a handful of parsley out of the garden or pick up some young green onions or green garlic at a farmstand.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

This silky, luxurious cream soup is filling and rich. It can be enjoyed as a main course, with perhaps nothing more than a fresh-baked baguette and a salad of mixed greens with a simple vinaigrette. I’m eating light(er) these days, so I make the salad the entree and enjoy a smaller cup to begin my meal.

— Maggie Perkins

4 shallots, chopped
2 Tbsp. good quality neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed oil
4-6 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced, such as button, crimini, shiitake and/or portobello mushrooms
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 quart half-and-half
1 quart whole milk
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped and stems removed
1 bunch scallions, sliced, green tops only
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Begin with a sizzling hot skillet. Cover the pan with the oil in a thin layer. (You can add more oil as mushrooms cook, if necessary, but if there is too much oil or the temperature is too low, the mushrooms will soak up added oil that you won’t want in your soup.)

Pan fry shallots until just transparent. Remove. Add mushrooms, one cup at a time, to skillet. Do not crowd the pan, as they will steam instead of sear. We are going for a little crisp on the edges. Toss in a few sprigs of thyme to saute along with the mushrooms.

Layer the cooking times of the mushrooms by adding cupfuls in 2- to 3-minute increments. This will allow for varying textures — some cooked well, some cooked al dente, and everything in between. If the pan becomes too crowded, remove and reserve that batch and begin another in the pan.

Moving to a heavy sauce pot or Dutch oven to complete the soup, transfer cooked mushrooms, shallots and thyme to soup pot over medium heat. Add remaining thyme, chopped parsley and sliced scallions. (I use whole thyme sprigs and fish them out before serving.) Slowly stir in half-and-half and milk.

Bring to a low simmer, cover and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. Do not allow to boil or else the half-and-half will separate. Just a simmer. Better to go lower and longer, so that mushrooms and seasoning fully infuse the soup, rather than hotter and faster.

Cream or milk-based soups require a little more salt than one might expect. Start with a teaspoon, but certainly don’t be shy. Taste as you go, and add as much as you need. Season additionally with freshly ground black pepper to taste. I love the stuff in cream soups, so I can be a little heavy-handed. Go with what you like. Fish out those thyme stems, and serve warm. Serves 4 to 8.

— Maggie Perkins

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