I’ve been craving some good old fashioned cream of mushroom soup for weeks.
When I was growing up I had two working parents, so a lot of my afternoons were spent at my grandmother’s house out in the country in upstate New York. We always ate really well (too well, probably) at Grandma’s house, and lunch was always a big deal. Soup and sandwiches was a pretty popular lunch time menu, but I hated tomatoes when I was young so mushroom soup (from a can of course) was how I rolled.
I don’t know what kid likes mushrooms but not tomatoes, but what can I say. I was a weird kid I guess.
When I think of all the gorgeous tomatoes that I missed out on, grown in the bright sunshine of my grandfather’s garden, it makes my heart ache. What was wrong with me? What a sad boring life I led.
One of my great grandmother’s favorite lunches in the summer was a thick-sliced fresh tomato sandwich on white bread with a little mayonnaise and a generous sprinkle of salt. I, however, usually opted for velveeta grilled cheese (baked, not fried) with a bowl of cream of mushroom soup.
Mushroom soup has always felt like a perfect comfort food ever since.
I recently dug around for recipes to satisfy my mushroom soup cravings, but I was stopped dead in my tracks by how heavy most of them sounded. I’m sure you know by now that I’m not shy about using real butter and cream, but Jeez Louise! One recipe, from my best-friend-in-my-head Ina Garten, called for a whole stick of butter, a cup of half and half, and a cup of heavy cream!
I knew there had to be a way to make a silky, creamy, rich & hearty cream of mushroom soup without using that much dairy and fat, but was having a hard time figuring it out. Then a friend at work reminded me that I already know the perfect secret ingredient!
Aaaaaaaaawwwwwhhhhh! Look at how that beauty glows! Can you hear the angels singing?
I’ve already used this trick before, when making corn chowder this summer, and I guess I somehow just forgot about it. When I was whining about how heavy and fattening homemade cream of mushroom soup was, my friend was like, why don’t you just do that roasted cauliflower trick?
Roasting cauliflower in the oven, rather than boiling it with the rest of the soup, keeps it from tasting cabbage-y, and once pureed super smooth, it adds an unbelievably silky texture that you’d truly never guess didn’t come from cream thickened with a roux. I don’t even understand how or why this works so well, but it really does.
I wasn’t intending to make a vegetarian or vegan cream of mushroom soup, just a lighter version, so I went ahead and kept the chicken stock and (some of) the butter. I also intended to add in just a bit of milk or cream at the end, but once the roasted cauliflower was pureed in, I realized I didn’t even need to. With that in mind, I now realize that it would be really easy to make this soup vegan if you want to. Just substitute olive oil or coconut oil for the butter, and vegetable (preferably mushroom) stock for the chicken stock. Since cauliflower is the only thickening agent, this soup also happens to be totally gluten free!
This soup is just what the doctor ordered. It’s so earthy and rich and… mushroomy. Using three varieties of flavorful mushrooms makes sure that every bit packs a serious punch. White wine adds a luxe floral note, fresh thyme compliments the woodsy earthiness of the mushrooms, and fresh parsley finishes the soup with bright green herbal flavor. While this recipe is healthier than most, I would never call it a “diet” or “light” recipe because it tastes way too good to be “health food”, and because it does still call for a good bit of butter and olive oil.
Thanks to the pureed roasted cauliflower, this soup feels every bit as rich and satisfying as you could hope. Some of the mushrooms are pureed too, but I like to reserve a few so you get some meaty bites of them every so often. You can use an immersion blender or a standing blender to puree the soup, but I will say that a standing blender seems to get the soup just a bit more smooth and silky. I used an immersion blender though, because it works almost as well and just seems safer, easier, and less messy.
A Healthier Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 small head of cauliflower
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp butter (or coconut or olive oil if desired)
2 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms (I used cremini, portabello, & shiitake)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable or mushroom stock)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 400 F. Roughly chop cauliflower into large florets. Toss in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and arrange in an even layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, roughly chop your mushrooms, removing and discarding any thick woody stems (especially the stems of portabello and shiitake). Heat butter and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a large thick-bottomed pot. Once the butter is sizzling, add the mushrooms and thyme, lightly season with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Cook the mushrooms until they have released most of their liquid. Remove two cups of the cooked mushrooms, letting liquid drain back into pot, and set aside.
Add the onions and the garlic, and cook for about a minute. Add the white wine, chicken stock, and half of the chopped parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add the roasted cauliflower.
Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a standing blender, purée the soup until completely smooth and silky. Return the pot to the stove, add the reserved cooked mushrooms and remaining chopped fresh parsley. If the soup is too thick, add a bit more stock to thin to the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary and bring back up to a simmer before serving.