She grew up in a household that always had help, so no one ever took her aside and said, “Virginia Lee, let me teach you how to roast a chicken.” Like many of us (like me, in fact, as she never took me aside for any cooking lessons either), she learned by trial and error. Then the food industry noticed her plight, and – voilá – convenience foods appeared! TV dinners, Minute Rice, Cheez Whiz, and instant mashed potatoes. To hear her talk, these were gifts from God as much as from Procter & Gamble. Her best friend, Joan, came to visit us one summer at the beach and swore it was the only vacation she’d ever taken when she actually lost weight.
To Mom’s credit, her chicken soup remains a staple of my own kitchen, and she could stir up a mean mess of pinto beans or gumbo. And she yearned to be sophisticated, so my brother and I were introduced early to raw spinach salad, fresh mushrooms, chicken liver pâté, and fresh artichokes. I grew up loving those foods.
|White Button Mushrooms|
I forged ahead, considering the flavors that would marry well with mushrooms and artichokes, and the cooking techniques I already use with both. Though it was more work than I expected, it’ll be easier and less time-consuming for you because you don’t have to think as much as I did.
A triumph, yes, but an expensive one, as the more exotic mushroom varieties can really run up your tab at the grocery store. Those are the really weird types, too, so be brave – you won’t notice the weirdness once they’re all chopped up together. The Kitchen Goddess recommends one quart of only white button and crimini mushrooms; the second quart can be a mix of whatever else is available at your grocer’s, and when your wallet starts whining, fill in the second quart with more criminis and buttons. Shiitakes tend to be reasonably priced as well. The folks at Whole Foods usually have a decent selection, and a broader variety in your mix of mushrooms will give a more complex flavor to the soup. The photos here cover the range I used.
Mushroom Artichoke Soup
2 artichokes [Kitchen Goddess shopping note: Look for artichokes with deep green color and a heavy feel. Squeeze the artichoke – the leaves should squeak when you do. Avoid ones whose leaves have split.]
6 cups good quality chicken or vegetable broth, divided
¼ cup dry white wine
1 large bay leaf
juice of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon garlic salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
2 quarts (64 ounces) fresh mushrooms, in a variety (e.g., those shown here, plus oyster, morel, hen-of-the-woods – whatever looks good)
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 cans organic artichoke hearts, quartered
salt/pepper to taste
For the artichoke broth:
To prepare the artichokes, first remove the small leaves from the base. Cut off the stems and peel away the tough outer layers of the stems. Then, using scissors, trim the thorny leaf tips. Cut the artichokes into quarters, and with a knife or a spoon (a melon baller also works), remove the hairy “choke” at the center of the artichoke.
|Black Trumpet Mushrooms|
For the mushrooms:
Set aside about 8 ounces of the best looking button or crimini mushrooms for the garnish. For the rest, trim stem ends and coarsely chop the mushrooms, then – in batches – pulse them in a food processor until not quite finely chopped.
When the artichokes are tender, remove them from the broth and reserve the broth. Discard the bay leaf.
|French Horn Mushroom|
Combine the artichoke broth, the mushroom mix, and the remaining 2 cups of vegetable or chicken broth. Add the tarragon and the parsley. Gently stir in the canned, quartered hearts and bring to a simmer. Salt/pepper to taste.
While the soup is coming to a simmer, trim and quarter the mushrooms you set aside for garnish. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to almost smoking, and sauté the mushrooms until the juices have cooked away and the mushrooms have browned. Stir them into the soup or sprinkle them on top of each serving.