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December 28, 2008

Dried mushrooms (Recipe: mushroom soup a la Fred)

Updated from the archives, with new recipe, links and photos.

Driedmushrooms2

A few Junes ago, Ted was mowing the occasional blades of grass in our lawn.

Along the edge of the woods, underneath the oak trees, he spotted a couple of oddly shaped mushrooms. Are they morels, he wondered?

Oh, yes, they were. And the more we looked, the more we found.

Two quarts of morels!

Have I told you that our land was once used by a charcoal maker? He was known as "The Indian," because he was a member of the Narragansett tribe that has its roots here in Rhode Island. (Nobody we know remembers his name.) There are large concrete platforms buried beneath our grass; on those platforms, more than forty years ago, The Indian burned wood into charcoal. A mushroom forager told us that the residual ash in our lawn creates a happy environment for morels.

We harvested every one of those wonderful morels, and I noted the date on the calendar. The following year, we didn't find a single morel. The year after that, just a handful. Last year, none.

Dried mushrooms I've purchased from farmers and farm stands in France (cepes) and in the Pacific Northwest (mixed morels, chanterelles and porcini) have kept for more than two years in tightly-sealed glass jars in my pantry, with no significant loss of quality.

We should have dried our harvest that first year.

Mushrooms

On the short list of pantry items I’m never without, dried mushrooms, ground to a powder, enrich soups and stews; reconstituted and left whole, they feature in my favorite risotto, as well as beef stew, porcini cream soup, artichoke and porcini filled potatoes, and Tuscan meatloaf. Invaluable in a vegetarian diet as a meat substitute, umami-rich mushrooms contain protein and all of the essential amino acids, as well as significant amounts of Vitamin D, potassium and phosphorous.

With dried mushrooms, quality is the key. Buy from a reputable source, preferably from the places known for their mushrooms: France, Italy, Poland, and the Pacific Northwest. Good dried mushrooms aren’t cheap. Don’t buy kibble -- which is, no kidding, what the bits and pieces are called. Your dried mushrooms should look like mushrooms, and you should be able to distinguish one variety from another. Check also for too much "dust" in the bag (a sign of staleness) or tiny wormholes in the mushrooms (a sign of stowaways).

From ancient times, mushrooms have held a place in mythology because of their seemingly magical ability to appear overnight; in many cultures, mushrooms are revered as a symbol of super-human strength, because they can push away stones as they grow upright through the soil.

If you’re in my neighborhood in early June, stop by and check the lawn for super-human morels.

Finders, keepers.

Mushroom soup a la Fred

Adapted from the Rhode Island company that makes the Equal Measure measuring cup pictured above, an irresistible recipe for mushroom soup. Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

Honey made by a good bee-hive in a day (1-1/4 cup) of chopped onions
A human brain (5 cups) of sliced portobello, cremini or button mushrooms (or a mix)
A billion grains of flour (3 oz) of butter
A tyrannosaurus-rex brain (4 oz) of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water to cover for 30 minutes, chopped, and liquid reserved
2 human brains (10 cups) of vegetable stock
A million grains of sugar (1/4 cup) of white wine
Water in a cumulus cloud the size of a bus (1 cup) of heavy cream
Salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Directions

In a pot, fry the onions and fresh mushrooms in the butter in batches, making sure to brown. Add the chopped dried porcini, vegetable stock, mushroom soaking liquid, and white wine, and simmer for an hour. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, and add the cream. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve garnished with chopped parsley.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Mushroom paté
Vegetable dumplings (for potstickers or soup)
Mushroom barley soup
Dry rub for beef

Comments

Those equal measurements are hilarious! I'm trying to imagine two human brains balancing on one side of a scale, while you pour vegetable stock into a bowl on the other side of the scale.

I found myself with a bit of extra dried mushrooms recently (I can't do accurate measurements in the grocery store) so I think I will try this. How nice to have your own morels - I'm very envious, because I would never eat anything I found in my own Long Island lawn!

Wow, how lucky to find morels. I do see some mushroom-looking things along the edge of my garden once in a while, but I'm pretty sure they aren't edible mushrooms! The soup sounds wonderful. I made mushroom soup about a week ago and remembered how wonderful it is.

This is cool. We have morels on our land in Oregon but I am always such a chicken to pick a mushroom and eat it...even knowing what it is. I need to get over it.

Very cool to find these mushrooms on your land. The Indian sounds very interesting.

Season's Greetings and a big hug,
Paz

That measuring cup is great!

ooo i never knew about grinding dried mushrooms, i love that idea :D huge fa of mushroom soup... have bookmarked this to try :D

Nate, I was so excited to get this Equal Measure as a gift, because I'd given it as a gift to several of my foodie friends. It makes me smile every time I use it.

TW, believe me, I was nervous about it, so I called in a mushroom expert to verify that my mushrooms were safe to eat. He was so excited to find morels that I gave him some to take home.

Kalyn, Noble Pig: you know the old saying about mushrooms: "when in doubt, go without."

Paz, thanks. I never met The Indian, but I know he was the only charcoal maker on our road. He lived here in the 1960s and maybe earlier.

Pam, isn't it great? I just love it.

TriniGourmet, do try it. Dried mushroom powder really enriches the soup broth and adds lots of umami flavor.

wish you and your family a wonderful 2009, dear lydia.

Love the measuring cup...and the mushroom soup recipe too! Looks delicious.

A must have in the pantry!i try to have a variety of dried mushrooms - they are so versatile and so full of intense flavor. Lovely warming soup!

Love the equal measurements cup! Than would make a fun hostess gift, with a little something inside...
I have never had morels before - but I do keep dried shiitake and porcini on hand. I love them in Asian soups, and really should find other uses for them too.
I have heard that in France, you can take your foraged mushrooms to the pharmacist for edibility verification. How cool is that?

We dried our own the past couple of years but decided against it this autumn, what with the wife being pregnant and all...

Amazing that you harvested the mushrooms - I never would have thought to do that! How did you know they were safe to eat?

Bee, you are so sweet. I wish you a wonderful year ahead.

Ellie, I do love this measuring cup. Wish it came in more sizes!

Meeta, I was amazed the first time I added dried mushrooms to soup -- the flavor became so rich. Now I do it all the time.

Natashya, I've heard that about French pharmacies, too, though I've never tried it.

Scott, good idea....

Maris, I invited a mushroom expert to come and check out the morels before I ate them. I have zillions of types of mushrooms growing here, and I'm afraid of most of them. But these were perfectly safe, and perfectly delicious.

I think when you picked all the morels that first year - that they did not have enough left to properly "propagate" - you should try bring in a starter batch from a green house. you could even bring in other variety and have whole "mushroom garden"

Just a note on your loss of morels after the first great year. If you ever find any again, you need to shake them around the yards to disperse spores so that they'll return next season. Place them in a net bag and walk around shaking the bag. Hope it works!

Carol and Full of Wonder: You are both so right, but I didn't learn until it was too late. I should have saved some mushrooms so they could spread themselves around. Thank you both for great suggestions of how to reintroduce morels to my wonderful charcoal-filled soil.

Morels! What a great find! I have been wanting to try morels. I have been using dried shiitake mushrooms for a while now and I am going to have to look for some other dried mushrooms to try.

Kevin, try dried porcini (they're easiest to find, especially in Italian markets) as a good all-around dried mushroom. I'm sure you'll like them, especially for soups and risotto.

I have mushrooms pop in my yard too, but I don't know if they're edible. I will have to check that out. I always get rid of them in case my children eat them by accident on purpose...

Wow - just discovered this great blog, and can't wait to make this soup(hold the brains)!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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