Monday, November 29, 2010

Exotic mushrooms and wild rice soup きのことワイルドライスのスープ

I am again drifting from the Izakaya theme but this is one of our favorite soup for special occasions. It is almost a cross between porridge and soup depending on how much wild rice I add. It can be certainly served as either "shime" (ending) or "opening" dish.

The original recipe came form the cookbook called "Openers", which has recipes and very artistic pictures of the appetizers and soups, i.e., "openers". We got this some years ago and it appears that this book is not available any longer. This soup can be a bit expensive to make depending on what kinds of exotic mushroom and types of wild rice are used. 

Mushrooms: For making soup stock, regular white button mushrooms are used, which will be pureed into the soup stock (see below). For the mushrooms in the soup, I used chanterelle, oyster (maitake, 舞茸), shiitake シイタケ, trumpet royale (very similar to eringi エリンギ or eryngii), alba clamshell, and brown clamshell (hon shimeji ホンシメジ) mushrooms this time. Cut them into relatively large pieces so that you can see and taste the mushrooms. Trumpet royale may be cut or torn along its length relatively thinly since it is rather firm. The amount and kinds of mushrooms you can use are totally up to you but using at least one exotic wild mushroom will make this soup special. Chantrelle and morel are two of my favorites and tend to be rather expensive.

Wild rice: Use 100% wild rice either true wild rice from the lakes of Minnesota or cultivated ones. I used the latter. Before adding to the soup, soak it in a hot water for one hour. Do not use a mixed wild rice and regular rice, which is often sold as "wild rice" in a ready-to-use box. You can not substitute wild rice with any other rice. The result will be totally different. So use wild rice. 

Mushroom Soup Stock: To make the soup stock, I sauteed the shallots, (thinly sliced, 5 medium), and carrot, rather finely chopped (one medium) in butter (2 tbs) in a large (12 inch) frying pan on a medium high flame for several minutes. It is ok to brown the butter in this process. I then add thinly sliced white button mushrooms (stem end removed, one package or about 15-20 small and medium ones) and sauté for 5-7 minutes. The reason I use a rather high heat is that the water exuded from the mushrooms needs to be quickly reduced leaving brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Deglaze with chicken stock (1/2 cup, my usual Swanson no-fat, low sodium) and turn down the flame to low. Put a tight fitting lid on the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. I add this to the stock pot with warm chicken broth (about 3 cups, again Swanson) on simmer. Using an immersion blender, I puree the solids in the soup stock. I put the pan in the sink to make spills easier to clean and blend. Once blended the pot goes back on the stove on simmer. 

I sauteed the mixture of the mushrooms from above in a large frying pan on a high flame with butter (2 tbs) for several minutes until the mushrooms are soft and browned without any liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan (picture on the left). I deglaze with brandy (2-3 tbs, I used Christian Brothers but it is up to you to use Remy Martin XO here). Be careful since it will ignite (I pour the amount of brandy in a metal cup before deglazing and flambe-ing). Let the flame die down and add the mushrooms to the soup stock. Add the drained wild rice (I only had 1/2 cup but you could use more, up to about 1 cup). I seasoned with dried leaf savory (1/4 tbs, if you have fresh savory, use fresh, 1/2 tbs, but I do not like to use "ground" savory) and fresh chopped thyme (sparingly, thyme can be strong, I used the ones still surviving in our herb garden). Actually, I add fresh thyme towards the end of cooking. I let it simmer for about 40 minutes until the wild rice is cooked. I adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. I served the soup garnished with chopped chives and freshly cracked black pepper.

This is a wonderful soup. In addition to all the flavors from the mushrooms, the wild rice really adds a nutty flavor as well as a thickness and unctuous mouth feel of the soup. We served this for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the past with great success. We had this with my wife's rye whole wheat bread tonight; an extremely satisfying combination. The wine we had was Bordeaux (unusual for us), Chateau Pavie-Macquin 2006. This is rather young and fruit-forward (for Brodeaux) without any funky nose. The earthy flavors of mushrooms went so well with this wine.

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