Finally, the tipping point has arrived, when the winter days start to slide toward spring. It’s not the winter solstice that makes it real, but the first hint of daylight on my way to and from work. It took me by surprise as I left the house on a frosty clear morning this week. I stopped in my rush toward the car and realized that although a few stars still twinkled, the sky was not quite black but lightening toward the color of new denim. By the time I got to work, the denim was fading to the softer hue of well-worn jeans, and a smudge of peach was visible across the horizon. Like magic, the drive home was also transformed by light. I felt like I was inside a perfect Faberge robin’s egg, with onyx trees etched in silhouette around the dome of the sky.
While this revelatory light gives a promise of spring, it is still only that—a pledge to be redeemed many months from now. But it gives one a second wind and something to look forward to, and that is most welcome at this time of year.
Also welcome, at this frigid time of year, is a bowl of hot soup. I’ve been tabbing all of the many recipes I want to try in the excellent new cookbook by Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table. And there are many tabs, but the soup section bristles with them just now.
This Paris Mushroom Soup is a delightful winter soup. After coming in out of the cold, and peeling off coat and gloves, there is nothing more satisfying. Like most mushroom soups, it is nothing much to look at—an unprepossessing earthy brown. But the taste is much more sophisticated than its humble appearance would suggest. It is thick and savory, with a pleasing contrast of textures between the pureed soup and the raw mushroom salad. It is also remarkably creamy, given that there is no cream in it at all—in fact, the only fat is a bit of butter and a dab of Crème Fraîche. And as a cream lover, I can tell you with assurance that you’ll never miss it. This is a soup that could go vegetarian in a snap, and vegan without much fuss, too.
All you need for a complete dinner is a bowl of this soup and a hunk of crusty bread.
Paris Mushroom Soup
(adapted from Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan)
For the soup:
- 2 tbsp butter
- One and one half large onions, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, pressed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- One and one half pounds white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 2 tbsp minced Italian flat leaf parsley
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
For the salad:
- 6 large mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
- 2 green onions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp Italian flat leaf parsley, minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Crème Fraîche, for serving (optional)
To make the soup:
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat. Toss in the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and the remaining tablespoon of butter; raise the heat to medium and cook, continuing to stir for another 3 minutes or so, until the mushrooms release their liquid. Increase the heat to high and cook until almost all the liquid evaporates. Pour in the wine and let it boil until it, too, almost evaporates.
Toss the herbs into the pot, add the broth, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and cook at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Pull out the rosemary sprig.
Working in small batches in a blender or food processor, purée the soup until it is very smooth; or use an immersion blender. Taste for salt and pepper. Pour the soup back into the pot and heat gently until very hot.
To make the salad and serve:
Divide the mushrooms, green onions, and parsley amongst six soup bowls; season lightly with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into the bowls, and top each with a dollop of crème fraîche, if desired.