Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm a mushroom snob!

Witamy! The more experienced we get with food, the more we appreciate mushrooms. I had a can of Cream of Mushroom soup for lunch today…smooth, silky, and full of rich flavor. As good as it was, home-made soup is so much better – healthier, more flavorful and can be almost as easy as opening a can!

Mushrooms are quite a key ingredient in many Polish dishes and often the recipes call for dried mushrooms.  But in our experience, unless they come from the forests of Central or Eastern Europe, the flavors just don’t quite measure up in terms of intensity and character.  When you open the package, the aroma must hit your nose hard!  When you reconstitute them in hot water, the mushroom essence in the left–over liquid must fill the whole kitchen and must always, always be used in the recipe.   (Anyone care to comment?)

We recently bought a tall jar of mixed, dried mushrooms at one of the big box stores; they looked inviting and were comparatively cheap but they just didn’t have the intensity as forest mushrooms from Poland or Germany or Russia.  It must be the dirt!  We have also purchased other brands of imported dried mushrooms from other parts of the world and they were not as intense either.  They were probably all farmed.

So I guess I’m a “Mushroom Snob,” but this week we’ll be at the nearby Russian deli (they also carry some Polish products) to purchase bags of forest mushrooms imported from Poland. They are certainly more expensive but using them in your dishes is oh, so worth it!

Care-Free Mushroom Soup

1.    Lightly rinse 3 ounces of dried forest mushrooms, chop them into rough pieces, and drop them into a pot with two quarts of warm water; cover the pot.
2.    Simmer the mushrooms for about 30 minutes, or until they are soft.
3.    Chop up 2 to 3 three cups of vegetables into 1 to 1.5 inch chunks – whatever you have handy will work: carrots, onion, celery, leek, parsely root, rutabaga, its all good!
4.    Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns, and salt to taste. Continue to cook the mix for another 30 minutes or until the hardest vegetables are quite soft.
5.    Strain out all the vegetables, and if you wish, add a little lemon juice to kick up the flavor…but go slow and keep tasting to avoid killing the mushroom flavors.
6.    Garnish with slices of cooked mushroom caps; serve with crusty rye bread.

P.S. If you wish to make the soup a little heartier, just add some barley to the mushroom broth at the same time you add the raw vegetables.

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