My Mom used to make a mushroom soup when I was little (12ish). The crinkled and crusty piece of paper that had the recipe photocopied on it (from an unidentified source) had the heading “Mushroom Velvet Soup.” This was back in the early nineties, so Mushroom Velvet Soup didn’t sound nearly as tacky as it does now. Actually, it sounded rather sophisticated and involved. The soup had a lot of flavors familiar to me, having spent only a couple years in the country at that point. There was dill and there was sour cream – two staples of Russian cooking. I loved it.
I had absolutely no interest in cooking at that time. In fact, I considered it punishment. This soup, however, really was punishment. Velvet obviously implies something smooth and rich. Unfortunately, a biting box grater and my 12-year-old hands were the closest we came to a food processor or immersion blender in the house. So, the soup making would go a little something like this. My Mom would call from work and ask me to grate the mushrooms before she got home. Yep, grate. Mushrooms. A whole carton of them. I hated every minute of it. I lost a lot of skin to that stupid grater.
After she got home, my Mom would make the soup with my nowhere-close-to-pureed mushrooms. The resulting soup tasted great but was certainly nowhere near velvety – even less velvety on the days when I was an extra cranky 12 year old and didn’t do very well with the aggressive box grater. The soup was one of the first things I learned how to make when I started cooking a little in college. I haven’t made it in years, for obvious grater-related reasons.
This is a slightly more grown version of that soup, made with the advantage of kitchen gadgets I am now privileged to own. I substituted crème fraiche for the sour cream to make the soup rich with a slightly more subtle tang, and used shallots in place of onions to let the mushroom flavor stand on its own a bit more. It was as classy as I remembered it.
Mushroom Velvet Soup, all grown up.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small shallots, chopped
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, roughly chopped (ha!)
¾ tbsp flour (helps with the velvet part of the soup)
2 cups chicken stock (more if you like a thinner soup)
3 tbsp crème fraiche
big handful of finely chopped dill
1) Saute shallots in olive oil till softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper, cook until all the water from the mushrooms evaporates.
2) Add the flour to the mushrooms, stir until absorbed. Pour in the stock and bring soup to a boil. Locate the pot lid at the very bottom of your sink that is overflowing with dirty dishes (or is that just me?), wash it, cover pot, lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, till the soup thickens and the mushrooms are thoroughly cooked.
3) Buzz the soup with blender (hehe) until smooth.
4) Add crème fraiche and dill, reheat but do not boil. Thin soup with stock if desired. Season with salt and pepper.