Everyone has their favorite season. For me, it is fall. Most people also have their own definition of what signifies the changing of a season. It could be a change in temperature, a certain date or holiday, or kids starting or finishing a school year. For me, it is officially fall when the air gets cool and crisp enough for me to turn my mind from the bounty of summer produce to heartier dishes like braised meats, rich soups, and roasted root vegetables. Basically, when my food cravings begin to change.
The first dish that finds its way to my table each year is always this mushroom and wild rice soup. It is rich in flavor, but not heavy, so it is the perfect choice for when I start to get impatient for the change in the season just a little early.
A few weeks back I happened to get such a craving. I also happened to have a little leftover Arkansas-style bacon (from Double R Farms, available at the OSU-OKC Farmer's Market) lying around, and thought it would make a great addition to the soup. It was indeed. The same went for the leftover crème fraiche I happened to have in my refrigerator. A dollop right before serving wasn't necessary, but it didn't hurt either.
You can use any varieties of mushrooms that you like, and my selection often changes depending on what is available at the time. The one staple I make sure to include is the dried porcini powder. It brings a ton of flavor to the broth. I buy it online here.
Wild Rice and Wild Mushroom Soup:
• ½ cup wild rice
• 3 cups boiling water
• ½ teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste
• ½ ounce dried wild mushrooms, such as porcini, chanterelles or shiitakes
• 2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
• 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
• 1 tablespoon dried porcini powder
• ½ cup dry white wine
• ½ pound fresh button mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced
½ pound mixed fresh mushrooms, larger ones sliced, smaller more delicate varieties left whole
• 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
• ½ cup heavy cream
• Freshly ground pepper, to taste
• 1 Tablespoon. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, picked
• ½ cup streaky or Arkansas-style bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
• Crème Fraiche, for serving (optional)
Rinse the wild rice in several changes of water and drain. Place the rice in a saucepan and add 2 cups of the boiling water and the 1/2 tsp. salt.
Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, without stirring, until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. For this recipe, I do not add the rice to the soup pot. This soup actually gets even better the next day, and if the rice sits in the soup overnight, it gets soggy.
Meanwhile, place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and add the remaining 1 cup of boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes until softened. Drain, reserving the liquid, and set the mushrooms aside. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Set aside.
In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, celery, and porcini powder, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and cook until reduced to about 2 tbs., 3 to 4 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms wilt, about 15 minutes.
Increase the heat to high, add the stock, the reserved mushroom liquid, and sliced mixed mushrooms. Bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until mushrooms are soft. Add the cream and the delicate mixed mushrooms, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the wild rice into warmed bowls and top with soup. Garnish with the parsley, thyme, bacon and crème fraiche (optional) and serve immediately.
To serve leftovers, simmer the rice in water for a couple of minutes while you reheat the soup.