My mom was a really great Italian cook, but she served us convenience foods on occasion too. Jello was one of her standard desserts, and we ate plenty of canned cream of mushroom soup too. You know the brand – the one with a red and white label that Andy Warhol transformed into an icon of pop art.
I’m sure lots of people still consume that Campbell’s soup. I confess to using a can or two in creamy casseroles back in the 70s when I was a newlywed. Although I haven’t had the stuff in decades, far be it from me to disparage it. Campbell’s is headquartered in Camden, N.J. and God knows Camden and New Jersey both need the revenues that the company contributes to their coffers.
Let’s just say I prefer the homemade version of any of those soups – and this homemade cream of mushroom soup doesn’t even take that long to make. Sure it takes longer than opening a can, but even operating with a cold last week, I scraped this soup together in just a little more than a half hour. This time I used baby bella mushrooms since that’s what I had on hand. They’re a kind of small portabella mushroom and they taste really meaty. But you can use white button mushrooms, shitake or for an even fancier version of the soup, a combination of many different mushrooms.
Just stay away from that can opener.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. butter
2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
3 T. flour
1/2 cup vermouth (or dry white wine)
3 cups chicken broth, heated
a few sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup – 3/4 cup heavy cream
squirt of Kitchen Bouquet, optional
salt, fresh black pepper
a shot of brandy or cognac
minced fresh parsley
Sauté the onions and garlic in the butter until soft. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release their liquid and are cooked most of the way through – about 10 minutes or so. Add the flour, stirring and cooking for a couple of minutes. It will become pasty but that’s ok. It will thin out when you add the liquids.
Add the vermouth , stirring into the flour mixture and cook for another couple of minutes. It will be very thick. Add the chicken broth a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk. Add the thyme, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the cream and parsley and stir some more, and if desired the Kitchen Bouquet. I like to use Kitchen Bouquet because it helps the turn become a richer tan color. It adds some flavor too. Cook another 10 minutes and just before serving, splash the soup with a shot of cognac or brandy.
You can puree the whole thing in a blender if you prefer a smoother soup, but I like the texture of the sliced mushrooms so I omit that step.