Canned 'cream of' soups are wonderfully convenient, bursting with flavor, and chock full of chemicals. Those little cans may seem wholesome, but a quick glance at the ingredients list of a major brand tells us otherwise:
WATER, MUSHROOMS, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, WHEAT FLOUR, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF: VEGETABLE OIL (CORN, COTTONSEED, CANOLA, AND/OR SOYBEAN), SUGAR, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, CREAM (MILK), SALT, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, FLAVORING, LOWER SODIUM NATURAL SEA SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DEHYDRATED MUSHROOMS.
There is so much wrong here. The first ingredient is water? I thought this was a cream soup! And a condensed one at that! But cream is actually eighth on the list, behind sugar. Also, there are three different types of salt here. One of them is potassium chloride, which is primarily used in fertilizers. Disodium guanylate is a flavor enhancer in the same family as MSG (monosodium glutamate), and the oils and soy protein are almost certainly from genetically modified crops.
There are three truths about homemade food: it is healthier, tastier, and takes longer to make. Yes, making your own cream soup does require more time and effort than simply opening up a can of the store-bought stuff. But think of that as an investment, both in your health and in the happiness of your taste buds. The time you spend in the kitchen making real food from whole ingredients can be relaxing, satisfying, and educational. It involves all your senses- the weight of the knife in your hand as you slice up the mushrooms, the smell of butter as it melts in the pan, the sound of the onions sauteing as they soften and begin to brown, the soothing taste of chicken stock as you check its seasoning, and lastly, the sight of an appropriately messy kitchen, full of the warmth and dirty dishes that say “I am functional and fully appreciated.” Okay sure, that last bit seems a bit hokey. But once you begin to take the time to understand your food and to find pleasure in cooking it, the kitchen can become an oasis instead of a black hole.
This recipe for homemade cream of mushroom soup takes less than half an hour to make and has many different uses. My favorite one is to add it to beef stew. The mushroom flavor pairs really well with beef, and the creaminess it adds transforms the dish from homey to sophisticated. It is also really good poured over seasoned chicken breast then baked in the oven, or just eaten on its own. However it's enjoyed, you will have the comfort of knowing exactly what's in it and the satisfaction of having made it yourself.
Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup
Serves 2 as main dish, 4 as a side
What You Need:
- 16 ounces fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced (slice in half first if more than 1-2" wide)
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tbl unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup cream or half and half
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
Heat the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onions, stirring well to coat with the butter. Cook until the mushrooms have wilted and most of the liquid evaporates. Add the garlic and cook two minutes more.
Blend in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook for about one minute.
Whisk in the chicken stock. Simmer until slightly thickened, stirring frequently. If your stock is unsalted, you may have to add a bit more salt at the end. Let your taste buds decide!
Add the cream and bring just to a simmer. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the soup and puree it. Pour back into the pan, stir to incorporate.
Turn off heat, adjust seasonings if necessary, and enjoy!
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