Jousting with Mushrooms, Yogurt and Nuts~

25 06 2010

I love the Royal Foodie Joust…it always pushes me just outside my comfort zone!  This month is no different.  Although none of the ingredients are particularly unusual, the combination is a bit…well, odd.   Pairing any two of the three is imaginable, but the three together certainly leaves one some room to ponder.  And ponder I did!

Initially, I was convinced I was going with crepes, made with yogurt and filled with mushrooms and…something…and somehow I’d add some nuts in there somewhere.  That didn’t work out in my head no matter how long I fussed with it.  Time kept ticking away, and as the final week kicked in I knew it was time to get down to serious business.  Commit…right, wrong, or draw…just commit and cook.

Cream of Mushroom Soup garnished with Spicy Pecan Brittle

My submission for the month of June is~

Cream of Mushroom Soup garnished with Spicy Pecan Brittle

Inspired by a Food Network Kitchens recipe
Yield:  4 to 6 first course servings


2 ounces dried mushrooms, shiitake, morel, porcini, oyster, portobella, etc.
4 cans (14 oz.) chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided in half
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion (Vidalia) thinly sliced, and chopped
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3 parsley sprigs
* 3 sprigs fresh thyme
* 1/2 teaspoon dry marjoram leaves
* 1 bay leaf
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3  cup Plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Sauvignon Blanc
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Bring broth to a boil and add * ingredients in a muslin bag. Add the dried mushrooms.   Set aside to rehydrate for at least 3 hours (shiitakes), or let cool and refrigerate overnight (best).

Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and reserve the broth. Roughly chop the mushrooms.

Strain reserved broth through a wet coffee filter or paper towel to remove dirt and sand.

Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the rehydrated mushrooms, onion and garlic and
cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and somewhat dry, about 6 to 10 minutes.   Pour in the reserved mushroom broth.   Lower the
heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Remove and discard the herb bundle. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth, or use an immersion blender.  Strain if a smooth soup is desired, leave as is for a soup with kind of a peasant quality to it.  I prefer to leave it with a little texture.   Reduce heat to a bare simmer to keep mushroom puree hot.

In a non-stick skillet, melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter and add the 4 tablespoons flour to create a blonde roux.  Cook at least 2 minutes, but do not allow to color.   Ladle the hot soup into the roux, whisking with each addition to avoid lumps, adding soup until most of the soup has been added to the roux, then pour the roux mixture back into the soup pot.

Whisk the heavy cream, wine, and salt into the yogurt.  When smooth, stir the cream and yogurt into the warm soup and season with pepper to taste.  Keep soup warm, but do not allow to boil until time to serve.  Garnish with crumbled Spicy Pecan Brittle and serve.

Spicy Pecan Brittle
My adaptation of a recipe adapted from Bon Appetit by Smitten Kitchen
Makes 1 1/2 cups.

3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon (generous) freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups toasted pecan pieces

Mix the corn syrup, sugar and salt in a small heavy sauté pan and cook syrup until golden.
Remove from heat as soon as a straw color is achieved, as it colors quickly and will burn, and stir in pepper and cayenne, then nuts. Transfer quickly to silpat mat.  Thin out with buttered fingers into as thin a brittle as you can, or separate into small clusters.
Allow to cool.

Tasting Notes~
I always look to my beloved spouse for his judgment on a recipe.  When he says…”I could eat that again,”  I know a recipe is worth another turn sometime.  When he says, “Not so much…” I can lose the recipe and he wouldn’t mind a bit.  After being together for (within days of) 29 years, we’re to the point where he can say honest things like that.  Especially when I do things like explore cuisines we don’t know about, and take on Food Challenges.

“I could eat this, like every week!” means we have a major-keeper recipe.   When I asked if he meant the soup, or the nuts, or…both?  The answer was, “Yes!!”  We agreed…we could snack on the pecans, happily.  In fact it would be good to seal them air-tight in a bag, in a tin where we couldn’t SEE them.  It’s an “umami” thing.  Sweet, salty, hot, spicy, buttery…kicky and soothing by turn.  The mushroom soup was thick and creamy…so rich and full-flavored.  I used The Flavor Bible to see what flavors matched up and found that marjoram brought out the earthiness in the mushrooms.  So, marjoram went into our muslin with the other herbs.  What else goes with mushrooms?  Yogurt.  Go figure.  What goes with yogurt?  Pecans.  Ok.  What else?  Cayenne.  And cayenne goes well with pecans.  Works for me.   So what we had was a lower fat cream soup…we subbed half the cream with plain Greek yogurt, but by adding the spicy, sweet, crunchy pecans on top, we added another layer of flavor and texture…one that had an interesting buttery quality that made you totally unaware that the soup could possibly be lower in fat.  And the pecans are addictive.  We thought they’d also go well on a salad, not to mention eating out of hand.  Did I mention that they keep you coming back for more?  The soup was really good too…even in the heat of the summer.  It wasn’t overly bold in flavor, but delicate, and though a cream soup, not overly heavy.  The flavors melded together just as I’d hoped they would!  Mmmmm!

This one was fun!  I learned a lot about mushrooms, and how to work with dried mushrooms.  I’m really glad I let them rehydrate throughout the night in the broth.  They picked up a really great flavor that way.  The herbs teased the flavor of the mushrooms to the forefront and didn’t let them get lost with everything that was going on.  This is a really great soup & salad night soup.  If made with just the water from soaking the mushrooms, it could easily be a meatless dish.

Oops…I need to chase the “hubby-mouse” out of the pecans…excuse me, please!