Monday, February 3, 2014

Polish Mushroom-Potato Soup

Witamy!  No amount of wishful thinking will bring a warming spring back to North America any sooner than Mother Nature will allow.  So deal with it and enjoy the opportunity to make fresh hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soups and stews for your table.  But first a note about your pantry...if you regularly prepare Polish recipes, your pantry should always be stocked with dried mushrooms and fresh dill.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of new Asian and Latino grocery stores.  These are great sources for fresh herbs and much cheaper than traditional grocery stores.  In fact some import Eastern European foods such as Polish chocolate, cookies, canned pate, pickles, and more.  We have several in Northern Virginia and regularly buy fresh dill for 99 cents a big bunch, and 3 or 4 bunches of green onions for a buck, cilantro for 50 cents a bunch, fresh beets at half the price of our local Safeway, and the list goes on and on.  These fresh ingredients will add a lot of authentic flavors to your cooking.  

Dried mushrooms are another story.  They are an important part of Polish cuisine because the flavor profile, when hydrated, is more intense than fresh mushrooms.  This soup recipe uses just a few dried mushrooms to kick up the taste.  To our palates, the absolutely best ones are “wild forest mushrooms” from Poland (or any other Eastern European country).  We used to get them on EBay from a farm in Bulgaria.  They were wonderful but capitalism has found its way there and the prices are now stratospheric.  But, very good dried mushrooms come out of mushroom farms in Iowa or Oregon, and are available on line.  Our last batch came from France and was purchased on Amazon for about $30 for a whole pound which fills a gallon container.
Since it is still cold outside, here is a soup that is sure to please, quite easy to prepare and not time consuming.  It’s delicious and very representative of traditional Polish comfort food. 

Serves 10
4 dried mushrooms (optional)
1½ pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 cup fresh, dark mushrooms, i.e. cremini, washed well and sliced
7 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cold water
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

If using dried mushrooms, wash them thoroughly to remove all sand.  Hydrate the dried mushrooms in a cup of very hot water for about one hour.  Keep the liquid for the soup pot. 

Bring broth and mushroom liquid to a low boil.  Cook the potatoes and all the mushrooms in the broth for 30 minutes or until just soft.  Mix the flour and cold water and slowly add to the broth.  Bring back to a boil and immediately remove from the heat.  Add in the sour cream, parsley and dill.  Season to taste.  HINT:  Go easy on the salt and keep tasting because the dill brings a natural saltiness to the soup.  
Serve IN a dark bread bowl,  or with fresh dark crusty bread and sweet butter.

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