We southerners love soups, stews, gumbos, cream sauces, gravies, and we also tend to use the freshest ingredients possible. Since a good part of our land is agricultural, we have access to all kinds of fresh food and food we’ve grown and canned or put in the freezer. That includes Mushroom Soup… you might be surprised how many of our traditional dishes include fresh mushrooms!
Still. We also know part of our cuisine -often referred to as the ‘cream of soup dishes’ – has been made fun of, considered low rent even rejected out of hand as substandard by those stuck up cooks in other parts of the country! I would argue that any real southerner finds generational comfort in soup can recipes, namely our famous casseroles. Green Bean Casserole has been around for over 75 years and there are Classic Chicken Casseroles that spell comfort. As soon as we hear of a death- before the grave is dug… you can hear the cans opening! No self respecting southern cook would even think of having a bereavement spread without several soup can casseroles, they feed a crowd and offer comfort at a time when fresh food might be a bit too lively to offer. I mean, who in their right mind shows up with a bushel of bell peppers or cucumbers when the digestive systems of the bereaved need soft creamy food with a bit of Ritz Crackers on top? Though-
I do need to add that we southerners don’t actually open a can of cream of mushroom soup, heat it and eat it like that! No, it’s a mainstay in our pantry, strictly used as an ingredient in those famous casseroles- and every southerner I know- who has the decency to send food to the bereaved- keeps her pantry and freezer ready for life’s unexpected trials and tribulations.
Still. When I make soup, I want it to be made from scratch. Last year, I fiddled around and came up with a Mushroom Soup recipe and it was good! I didn’t share it with you, because it wasn’ a ‘tested and tried’ recipe. With the cold snap we’ve been having and all of the holiday leftovers a distant memory- Soup of any kind just felt right. My grocery store had some good looking mushrooms and I basically had every thing else I needed to make Homemade Mushroom Soup! Here’s how I made-
Camellia’s Homemade Mushroom Soup
You will need:
- A drizzle of Bacon Fat
- One Stick of Butter (1/2 cup)
- 1 medium Onion finely chopped
- 3 Garlic Cloves chopped
- 4 cups of Whole Fresh Mushrooms – sliced (can be one type or several – your choice)
- A few sprigs of Fresh Thyme
- 4 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour
- 4-5 cups of good quality Chicken Stock – homemade if possible
- Small Diced Ham – 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
- A couple of splashes of White Wine
- 1 cup of Half and Half or Heavy Cream if you prefer
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Use 1/4 cup of powdery grated Parmesan Cheese only as a seasoning or thickener, but it’s worth keeping in the pantry! If the soup needs to be a bit thicker- this type of parmesan cheese is an excellent way to season and thicken the soup before adding Cream, just reduce the amount of salt a bit.
To Prepare Soup–
- In a large soup pot, pour a drizzle of Bacon Fat- okay I admit it- to be Southern Style- it has to have some pork! Also melt one half of the butter (half stick) over medium high heat.
- Add finely chopped onion. Saute until onion is soft. Reduce heat to medium and add chopped garlic- be careful- garlic scorches easily, saute Garlic for no more than one minute.
- Add sliced Mushrooms- I used a mix of Baby Portobello and White Buttons, also add the remainder of the Butter. Stir until butter has melted, then add fresh Thyme (leaves only) and diced Ham.
- Cook until mushrooms are soft and moisture has cooked off.
- Shake Flour over the mushroom mixture, stir to coat- then add White Wine. Stir often until liquid has cooked off. Mixture will be thick. *It will look like this-
- Add 4 cups of Chicken Stock, bringing it to a bubbling simmer. Cook on medium until this mixture is thick and smooth- up to 30 minutes, stirring often.
- *To thicken- use the powdered Parmesan Cheese. I use it as a seasoning or thickener only! Add up to 1/4 cup of this type of Grated Parmesan Cheese stirring it until completely absorbed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. *I found when the recipe was tested, the extra thickening was needed.
- *At this point the soup may be refrigerated! When ready to serve, bring thickened mixture to a simmer and carefully add Half and Half, stirring until absorbed into the Mushroom mixture. Serve immediately. *If you aren’t quite ready to serve, the soup may be kept covered in the oven for a bit- at 170 degrees, no longer than 10-15 minutes.
Serving suggestion: Melt a half stick of butter in a cast iron skillet. Toss in a 16 oz. bag of Oyster Crackers and stirring to coat. Remove from heat. Put skillet of Oyster Crackers in a cold oven set to preheat at 350 degrees. When oven is preheated- the Oyster Crackers will be buttery and toasted. Excellent accompaniment!
Homemade Mushroom Soup is rich and hearty enough for a main dish, though I must admit a small cup would be an excellent first course. Homemade Mushroom Soup doesn’t aim to be a substitute for any of the famous soup can recipes we southerners also love, however it does bridge a gap between haute cuisine and the so called low rent dishes. Homemade Mushroom Soup is so good on chilly days- fresh but without the bite, that I’m reminded of a family’s beloved but protective family dog… When she runs out barking… they reassure folks…‘She won’t bite.’ Well…not hard.’
Homemade Mushroom Soup has lots of flavor from onions, ham, garlic, fresh thyme, wine and good chicken stock- comforting but surely not bland.
Love y’all, Camellia
*All photographs are obviously mine.