Showing posts with label dried mushrooms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dried mushrooms. Show all posts

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sour-and-Hot Mushroom Soup

Hot-and-sour soup is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find versions of it with no pork when ordering at restaurants. There are plenty of recipes for vegetarian versions of the soup to make at home, but I was particularly drawn to this mushroom-forward take. This is from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop, and since I usually mention when I’ve received copies of books I want to point out that this is one I purchased. I was browsing the cookbook section at the bookstore which I can spend hours doing, and when I started looking through this one I lost count of how many dishes I wanted to run home and try. There’s a rainbow of sticky note flags marking pages in this book. The dishes are true to authentic Chinese cooking, but they’ve been made very accessible to home cooks in the West. Not too many ingredients are hard to find, and often those are optional. I’ve made the Tiger Salad which is a mix of cucumber, cilantro, green chiles, Chinkiang vinegar, and sesame oil. I made the Salt-and-Pepper Squid and added Shrimp lightly dusted in potato starch, fried, and topped with stir-fried garlic, green onion, and red chile. I tried the Sweet and Spicy Cold Noodles with sesame paste, sesame seeds, chile oil, and topped with shredded chicken. Everything has been outstanding. I can’t wait to take a stab at Dumplings in Chile Oil Sauce, the Stir-Fried Oyster Mushrooms with Chicken, and the wonderfully simple Silken Tofu with Avocado. This book hasn’t spent much time on the shelf and probably won’t. Now, back to this soup I started talking about. It’s described as subtler than the hot and sour soups from Chinese restaurants in the West. The sour comes from Chinkiang vinegar, and the hot was to be delivered by white pepper. I have a preference for black pepper and crushed red pepper, so I made a very unauthentic change to the dish by using those instead. However, I did seek out dried day lily flowers which were an optional item in the ingredient list. 

The recipe includes both fresh and dried mushrooms. We usually have a pretty good selection of types of fresh mushrooms at our local grocery stores, but on the day I was shopping for this dish shitakes were available but no oyster or enoki. I bought dried oyster mushrooms instead. The dried mushrooms and the dried day lily flowers were to soak in hot water for an hour before using. Meanwhile, I started cutting the ginger into tiny slivers. The fresh mushroom caps were also cut thinly, and the tofu was cut into thin shapes similar in size to the mushroom pieces. To start the cooking, oil was heated in a wok and ginger was sizzled until fragrant. The dried mushrooms which had been sliced thinly as well along with the fresh mushrooms and lily flowers were added next. The mixture was allowed to cook until the mushrooms were almost cooked through, and then, warm chicken stock was added and brought to a boil. The tofu was added and carefully stirred to prevent breaking it too much. Light and dark soy sauce were added, and after a short simmer, the vinegar and pepper were added. Off the heat, sesame oil was stirred into the soup, and it was topped with green onions. 

This was a fantastic hot-and-sour soup or sour-and-hot soup. The fresh and dried mushrooms gave it great flavor, and there was a nice mix of textures with the lily flowers and tofu. It lacked the shreds of cooked egg that often appear in a hot-and-sour soup, but there was enough going on here that I didn’t miss them. I’d like to just keep cooking page after page of this book, so a feast of a dinner party might be in order. 

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Last fall, I read The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance after receiving a review copy and learned all about Craig Claiborne’s life. I didn’t realize that his approach to food writing was so revolutionary at the time. After studying at the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland, he sought out “the sublime” in cuisine, service, and dining experiences, and that’s what inspired his writing. He found disappointment in a lot of restaurants, but when his expectations were met, he was thrilled to share what he’d found. He had sophisticated taste that required teaching his readers about unfamiliar foods while not alienating them. After writing pieces for Gourmet, he became the food editor at The New York Times in 1957. His first NY Times Cookbook was published in 1961, and I have the revised edition from 1991. I’d never sat down with this cookbook before since there isn’t a lot of introductory info or many recipe headnotes. But, after reading about Claiborne’s life, I was interested in finding out what recipes were in this book I’d had for several years. There are complicated and fancy things like Truffled Pate and Lobster L’Americaine, but there are also plenty of simple salads, pastas, vegetable dishes, and homey desserts. Most of the recipes have no notes or explanations about their origin, but the wild rice and mushroom soup did. It’s actually called Julie Wilson’s Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, and Claiborne wrote that it’s “one of the greatest soups ever created.” He also pointed out that it’s a “bit time-consuming,” and he was right about that, but it was definitely worth the effort. I marked this page back in October and just got around to trying this lovely soup. There’s a version of this recipe online at the NY Times, and the quantities are slightly different from those in the book, but otherwise it’s the same. 

This soup can easily be vegetarian if vegetable stock is used, but the recipe was written with chicken stock. There are a few steps that require waiting or simmering, but those things can be happening at the same time. You start by rehydrating dried mushrooms with hot water. While those sit for at least 20 minutes, you can start cooking the wild rice which takes almost an hour. I found some nice, long grains of wild rice from Minnesota, and it was cooked in boiling water with a little butter. Next, onion, garlic, and leeks can be chopped while waiting on the mushrooms and rice. Once the dried mushrooms were hydrated, they were drained into a bowl so the soaking liquid could be saved. The mushrooms were rinsed under running water to remove any grit, and they were squeezed dry before being chopped. Tough stems were discarded. The soaking liquid was poured through a sieve lined with cheesecloth and reserved. Moving right along, olive oil was heated in a Dutch oven, and the onion, garlic, and leeks were sauteed until tender. The chopped, dried mushrooms were added followed by flour. This mixture was cooked for a few minutes before white wine, stock, salt and pepper, some Tabasco (I prefer Crystal), and the mushroom soaking liquid were added. This was brought to a boil and then left to simmer for an hour. Yes, this soup takes some time. At this point, it could be refrigerated until the next day. After simmering, the soup was pureed in batches in a blender. It went back into the Dutch oven and half-and-half was added. As it was re-warmed, fresh mushrooms were sliced and sauteed in butter. Once cooked, they were sprinkled with lemon juice and sherry. The cooked, fresh mushrooms were added to the pureed soup along with the cooked wild rice. Thyme and parsley were added, and the soup was ready to be served. 

Wild rice has always been one of my favorite grains, and I don’t cook it often enough. I love the chewy texture, and it’s a perfect match with mushrooms. This is a hearty and slightly decadent soup, but it’s a meal of a soup. There are layers of flavor from the dried mushrooms to the wine to the herbs added at the very end. I’m glad to have learned more about Craig Claiborne’s life, and I look forward to cooking more things he recommended.

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