John made a plate of deeply roasted mushrooms last fall as part of a thanksgiving spread. Nothing crazy at first, just mushrooms sliced and tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. He covered them and roasted them until they we juicy and soft then, and here’s where the twist comes, he uncovered them and kept on roasting until the mushrooms were dark and some had become crispy mushroom chips. The flavor was crazy; mushroom-y but chewy and salty, they reminded us of bacon. Roasting the mushrooms – like roasting any vegetables – caramelizes the sugars, reduces the water content, and overall intensifies their flavors.
With John’s mushrooms in mind Sunday afternoon, I set about making a mushroom soup. I wanted something simple and healthy – no purees and no cream – with a richly flavorful stock. After a massive and long overdue pantry clean out (inspired by putting away a newly purchased bag of cous cous only to find they same exact bag of cous cous buried in the pantry), I reached for a jar of forgotten barley, a bunch of Tuscan kale, and some aromatics. The result was this rustic soup that satisfied on all levels.
Don’t be afraid to really take the mushrooms quite dark when you roast them. They look like they’re going to burn, and certainly you don’t want that, but you do want nice dark color with some crispy bits around the edge. (I was tempted to pull them well before my kitchen consultant declared them done.) The dark roasting brings a beautiful mushroom intensity to the broth you don’t want to miss.
Hearty and warming, this serves 4 as a main dish with bread or salad and 6-8 as a starter.
Completely unrelated to the topic at hand: John made this pizza dough for lunch the other day, which blew my mind. So easy (1 hour total, including the rise), and surprisingly flavorful with the short fermentation, it baked up to a crispy, chewy, cheesy, pan of heaven in 10 minutes. I’ve always struggled with homemade dough for the oven (having better luck on the grill.) This will be the new standby recipe.
I’ve been obsessed with David Lebobtiz’ chocolate sorbet and coconut chocolate sorbet from The Perfect Scoop. I realize it’s decidedly not sorbet season and you all ate your weight in chocolate last week, which is why I’m not devoting an entire post. Suffice to say it packs the most concentrated chocolate flavor into every bite, and makes any other chocolate confection seem drab and pale. I’ve been serving it floating in chilled coconut milk sweetened with a little sugar or vanilla anglaise with these cookies on the side.
For the Soup
- ¼ oz dried mushrooms (such as shitake or porcini – buy them at your local Asian supermarket, which will no doubt be infinitely cheaper than any other store.)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as crimini, shitake, and portabella)
- A few sprigs thyme and rosemary
- 4-6 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
- ¾ cup pearled barley (can substitute faro or brown rice if that’s what you have on hand)
- 2 cups good tasting chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 4-5 tbsp sherry or rice wine
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 oz (about ½ a large bunch) kale, de-stemmed and chopped (I like Tuscan kale, but any will work.)
- Parmesan and chili oil (below) or more olive oil for topping.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let soak 10 minutes until soft.
Meanwhile, wipe any dirt away from the fresh mushrooms with a paper towel and slice them roughly. Place the mushrooms and the herbs (save 1 sprig each to add later) on a large baking tray. Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the liquid, chop them roughly, and add them to the fresh mushrooms. Drizzle with olive oil (2-4 tbsp) and season with salt and pepper. Cover the tray with tin foil and roast 20-30 minutes until the mushrooms begin to release their juices and are softened. Remove the foil and roast an additional 15 minutes until the mushrooms are quite dark and some begin to crisp up.
While the mushrooms are roasting, heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a large deep skillet or soup pot. Add the carrot, onion, and garlic, and sweat over low heat until soft and aromatic – 10-15 minutes.
Place the barley in a strainer and rinse well under cold water. Add the barley, the roasted mushrooms, the stock, the water, the mushroom soaking liquid, the bay leaf, and the reserved sprigs of herbs to the onion mixture. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer on low heat 1 hour, or until the barley is tender. Add the sherry or rice wine and soy sauce and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Carefully remove the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.
Add the kale, and increase the heat to medium. Re-cover the pot and cook 5-7 minutes until the kale is wilted and softened.
Serve in warmed soup bowls topped with parmesan and chili oil or olive oil.
For the Chili Oil
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp red chili flakes
Heat the oil in a small pan until it’s hot, but not smoking. Add the chili flakes and turn off the heat. Let sit until cool. Keeps well at room temperature indefinitely and can be easily made ahead.