Dried (and fresh) Mushroom Soup

mushroomLetters would arrive from France, Poland, and Israel, my father carefully removing the stamps before tossing the envelopes.  Once in a while, no more than once or twice a year, a package would arrive as well.  It was always the same, a cardboard box wrapped in brown paper tied with a rope.  It was clear from the handwriting that it was addressed by someone whose native language was not English.  A pungent, earthy smell seeped through the box, revealing the contents before we managed to cut the string.

The box contained dried mushrooms, grzyby.  They were sent to us by a Polish man who had helped my father during the war, a man who in return for his kindness and heroism, received a small check from my father, every month, for as long as I can remember.  They never saw each other again, but the relationship was maintained by this exchange that went back and forth across the ocean, via mail.

In an age where letters are a rare form of communication, and packages often come from Amazon, I miss that feeling of anticipation and excitement that went hand in hand with the approach of a mailman.   We say our hectic lives are to blame, but I think about this Polish farmer, whose life I am sure was challenging in many unimaginable ways, going out to the woods to pick mushrooms after a rainfall,  then drying them, boxing them, and taking them to a post office to mail them to a man in the United States who he had not seen in years.

It has been rainy and cold (for L.A.) and Purim is around the corner.  That means Mishloah Manot will soon be mailed.  I have no doubt that there will be various comments about the contents, but I hope that the packages will stir the same feelings that I think my father experienced when those boxes arrived.  Knowing that someone is thinking of you, year after year, and from miles away.

In the meantime, it is a perfect time of year to make a pot of mushroom soup.

Dried Mushroom Soup

2 oz. dried Polish mushrooms

1 cup hot water

1 lb small brown or white mushrooms

2 Tb olive oil

1 large brown onion

1 small leek, white part only

1 large russet potato

2 Tb butter

3 cups pareve chicken stock plus reserved water that mushrooms were soaked in.

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1/2 cup whole milk

Soak dried mushrooms in a small bowl of hot water for a few minutes to release any dirt.  Then strain and place mushrooms in about 1 cup of hot water for about 20 minutes till mushrooms soften.  Peel and dice onion, clean and thinly slice leek,  and add both to a large soup pot along with the 2 Tb  of olive oil.   Saute onions and leeks for about 5 minutes over a low flame but do not allow to brown.  Thinly slice fresh mushrooms and add to pot along with dried mushrooms, reserved liquid, and chicken broth.  Add potato that you have peeled and diced and salt and pepper.  Bring  soup to a boil, lower heat and simmer covered, for about one hour.  Allow to cool and then purée using an immersion blender.  Add butter and milk and adjust seasoning to taste.  If you want to reheat, do it over a low flame.  Serves 6 – 8

Enjoy,

Irene

Austrian Cream Veloute Soup

Having a chef come to your home with the intention of helping you cook can be an intimidating experience.  I knew for several weeks that newlyweds from our synagogue had accepted an invitation to join us for Shabbat and were planning to come early and help prepare the meal.  Michael (the chef) and I were in charge of the soup and pasta.  Emily and Norm were going to bake Challot.  My older son was going to keep us entertained.

At 3:00 Michael and Emily arrived and the five of us spent the afternoon in our favorite place, the kitchen.  The counter, in my narrow galley kitchen, was divided into two stations. There was the baking corner and the soup/pasta corner.  Michael, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, had worked in a high-end New York restaurant for several years.  I would love to say that we were a team, dissecting the recipes and discussing the pluses and minuses of fresh tomatoes versus canned.  It was nothing like that.  Michael and I started making the pasta sauce together but he had such command of the kitchen that after a few bottles of wine, I decided to take complete advantage of my guest and let the pro do his magic, and magic it was.


Here is the soup that Michael prepared. Incredibly rich and delicious, the texture of this soup is like velvet.

Austrian Cream Veloute Soup

This soup requires a few steps, but it’s worth it.

Vegetable Stock

1 lb. each of carrots, leeks, Spanish onion,

1 fennel bulb

2 sprigs Thyme

2 Bay Leaves

1 bunch Italian parsley

4 1/2 quarts water

2-3 Tbs vegetable oil

Grind all raw vegetables in food grinder or Cuisineart, and place in stock pot with vegetable oil.  Saute vegetables and herbs for several minutes, until they began to give off some liquid.  Add water and simmer for one hour.  Then take your stock along with the vegetables and put through a fine mesh strainer, removing all pulp.

Note: This stock can be used as a base for any soup.

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups flour

salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot and slowly add flour, whisking together to make a roux.  Cook for several minutes, and slowly add your homemade vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add juice of half a lemon.  Allow to cool slightly and whisk in sour cream.  When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and add some homemade croutons. Garnish with chopped chives.

2- 8 oz. containers sour cream

Garnish with croutons and chives

juice of half a lemon


Enjoy,

Irene