Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I Heart Soup

Indulging in a spoonful of comfort

I've managed to avoid getting sick this whole winter, which is truly miraculous given my tendency to catch whatever bug goes around at least twice a season. Be it my diligence at washing my hands before meals or the plain fact that I live alone, somehow I've managed to escape illness up until now.

This morning, however, I woke up this morning with a frog in my throat; what felt like the very beginnings of a dreaded cold. I spent most of the afternoon bundled up in the house, and finally made it to the grocery store to get some Zicam (my friend swears by this stuff as a cold buster). I also thought of a recipe from the book I recently read, Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl. Throughout the book, she uses recipes in the narrative. It's a good device, though one must give a nod to Isabel Allende's Like Water For Chocolate for using recipes in storytelling.

Anyway, the chapter titled "Fall: Mushroom Soup" describes the soup as "the most soothing soup I know, with no sharp edges to jar the palate, no sneaky unexpected spices. It is the perfect prescription for those in need of solace." This sounded perfect to me. I prefer my soothing with a little "unexpectedness" so I added shallots and used the more savory crimini mushrooms over plain button mushrooms. I also whipped out the Microplane for grating whole nutmeg. It's truly amazing, the difference between freshly ground and pre-ground spices.

Soup has always been my go-to food for comfort, and every dinner at home as a kid involved soup of some kind. It wasn't dinner unless there was soup, usually something pretty basic, like an egg drop soup or seaweed and tofu. I didn't start using milk, cream, or half-and-half in hot items until much later, and when I first started cooking with dairy it seemed like such a foreign substance. Asians don't eat a lot of dairy anyhow, but now I readily embrace it (even if my digestive system doesn't, heh).

Something tells me that all this dairy isn't that awesome for my immune system, but it hit the spot, that's for sure.

Mushroom Soup
adapted from Comfort Me With Apples
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 large shallot, diced
1/4 medium onion, diced
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef or vegetable broth
2 cups half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf

Melt the butter in a heavy saute pan. When the foam subsides, add the shallot and onion and saute until golden. Add the mushrooms and saute until brown.

Stir in the flour, and then slowly add the broth, stirring constantly.

Heat the half-and-half in a saucepan or in the microwave. Add it to the mushrooms (I used a whisk), along with salt, pepper, nutmeg and bay leaf. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes; do not boil.

Remove the bay leaf and serve. Makes 4 servings.


shorty said...

Be careful with Zicam - it makes your cold go away, but it can also make your smell go away too! Bad for food lovers everywhere.

Bonnie said...

Happy to see you writing. Can't wait to eat out with you in Portland soon. I love the bit about the lactose intolerance. Too funny. Happy mouth, sad tummy. Why is it that we tend to crave things that our bodies don't take well? Hmmm...