Rummaging around H-mart (my local Asian market) the other day, I happened upon a nice price on a big bag of dried shiitake mushrooms. As mushrooms go these are practically indestructible and have a strong flavor. They are often considered medicinal in East Asia. I have been hungering for a nice rich bowl of mushroom soup. So, let’s put these guys in a hot liquid to rehydrate them and cook them in some fish stock for a nautical cream of mushroom soup.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 4 ounces dried shiitaki mushrooms
- 2 large onions
- 3 1/2 cups hot water
- 3 quarts fish stock
- 1 cup pearl barley (optional)
- 2 cups light cream or half and half
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper
Combine mushrooms and hot water in a large, heatproof bowl. Let stand 1 hour. With your fingers, work mushrooms to release any grit. Let stand until very pliable, about 1 hour longer. Then, lift the mushrooms from the liquid and cut them into large pieces and set aside. Reserve the bowl of soaking liquid.
Dice the two large onions. In a 5- to 6-quart pot, sauté the onions in a little olive oil. When they are translucent add the stock and chopped mushrooms. Pour the reserved soaking liquid into pot, taking care not to disturb grit in bowl. Make sure that stays behind. Then, rinse and drain barley and add to pot, if you’re using it. I tend to like the barley in the soup to give it a bit more body. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until barley is tender to the bite, about 1 hour.
In a medium bowl, mix the cream, or half and half, with the flour and temper by whisking in a little hot soup. Pour contents of bowl into hot soup, whisking constantly on medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. This is where the thickening of the soup occurs. Adjust seasonings and heal t through.
Serve this up in nice deep bowls and serve with crusty bread, like a baguette.