I love March. Everything looks brighter and happier with a little increase in sun angle. We still have snow in the mountains and will for some time, but on those extra warm days the snowy streams and rivers smell of wet earth and hint at the glorious water crossings of summer. And it won’t be long before the plains explode with the colors of bright new green growth and the confetti of flowers. March 1st is also our wedding anniversary. We just celebrated 24 years of legal bliss. At the time, we had arbitrarily selected the date, but now it is this magical moment when the potential for a powder day is equally as good as it is for a day to throw the windows open in the afternoon.
February was snowier than January, thank goodness. While January set the bar pretty low for snowfall in Colorado, we were able to catch some powder days and log lots of miles on the Nordic trails last month. We kept Chinese New Year festivities mellow, focused on work and exercise, and generally continued our isolation with Neva and Yuki. Oh, but I did run out to meet our Crested Butte neighbors’ new puppy because she is IRRESISTIBLE! You know how some people can’t resist babies? I am that person, but with puppies.
taping the chinese symbol for luck upside down on our front door for good luck
sunshine and stormy weather – we love both
i almost kidnapped this adorable baby australian cattle dog
Colorado remains below average for snowpack, but we’re closer to average now than we were a month ago. I can only hope that we remain on this upward trend (and that the summer monsoons don’t evaporate) so that our current daydreams of summer aren’t transformed into the terrifying wildfire season we experienced last summer and fall. We have plenty of adventures planned for ourselves and the pups!
outside time is good for everyone
neva and yuki love their off-leash privileges (and they’ve been so good)
our local mama moose with her yearling sunning in the neighbor’s flowerbed
All this talk of spring and summer has me getting out over my skis. Winter is where we’re at and I wanted to document this comforting cream of shiitake mushroom soup before all thoughts turn to spring produce. Well, my thoughts are already there, but soup and mushroom fans (I am both) will dig it. I’ve made this soup a half dozen times now because I kept picking up these 12 ounce packages of fresh shiitake mushrooms when they appeared at Costco last fall. Any mushroom will do, but fresh shiitakes are like a crossover mushroom from the ordinary button mushroom to the more boutique varieties, and it won’t cost a fortune. The original recipe serves 4, but we burn through this soup so fast that I doubled it in the recipe below. Feel free to halve it (and then regret that you did).
butter, salt, flour, garlic, onion, oat milk (you can use half and half), shiitake mushrooms, pepper, chicken broth
Unless your mushrooms are absolutely filthy, I don’t think it is necessary to wash them. You can, but I don’t. A quick wipe with a damp paper towel or swipe with a pastry brush will remove any debris. Be sure to pop the stem of the shiitake off because it’s pretty tough.
remove the stems
diced onion, minced garlic, sliced shiitake
Sauté the onions and garlic in butter until they have softened, then add the mushrooms. Sauté the mushrooms until they are cooked through. Remove everything in the pan to a bowl and set aside. If you want whole slices of mushroom in the final soup, reserve some apart from the main batch.
soften the onions and garlic
add the mushrooms
the mushrooms are cooked through
In a separate pan (or using the same pan), make a roux by heating the butter and whisking flour into it over medium-high heat. Be sure to let it cook until the roux turns a light golden color while constantly whisking. If you prefer a deeper flavor, cook and whisk the roux until darkens a little more. When the desired color is achieved, gradually pour the chicken broth (use vegetable or mushroom broth and sub a plant-based milk for the half and half if you want to make this vegetarian) into the roux while whisking. Steam will rise up violently and fog your face and glasses, so don’t peer over the pan while you do this and take care not to burn the hand that is whisking. Keep whisking to work out the lumps as you incorporate the liquid.
whisk flour into hot butter to make the roux
add broth to form the soup base
When your soup base is smooth, combine it with the mushroom mixture making sure to save out any of the reserved mushroom slices. Use a blender (immersion or countertop or a food processor) to purée the soup. For a chunky soup with more texture, pulse the soup to the texture of your liking. For a more velvety consistency, purée all the way. I’ve tried both with and without the reserved mushroom slices and they’re all great. My favorite is a smooth purée with lots of slices stirred in. With the soup in the pot, pour in your half and half or alternative milk (I used oat milk), add any reserved mushroom slices, and bring the soup to a simmer.
adding the soup base to the mushrooms
immersion blender action
The last step is seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Then sit down to a warming bowl of mushroom soup that feels like being wrapped in a cozy blanket. It’s a pretty quick soup to make as soups go and the effort is inversely proportional to its deliciousness, which might explain why I made it so often this winter.
garnished with seared shiitake and chopped chives
for all the mushroom lovers
12 oz. shiitake mushrooms (about 4.5 cups), stems removed, sliced
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 tbsps butter
6 tbsps all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups half and half or oat milk (or any neutral flavored alternative milk)
salt and pepper to taste
Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large stock pot over medium high heat. When the butter begins to bubble, add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until completely wilted. Remove to a bowl and set aside. If you want whole slices of mushroom in your soup, reserve out a fraction of the mushrooms now.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat until bubbling. Whisk the flour into the butter to incorporate. Keep whisking until the mixture begins to turn a light golden color (you can let it go a little darker if you prefer a deeper flavor). Slowly pour the chicken broth into the roux while constantly whisking to smooth the lumps. When the soup returns to a simmer, add the mushroom mixture except for any you have reserved out previously (keep those separate for now). Remove from heat. Carefully blender your soup using either an immersion (stick) blender or running your soup through a blender or food processor. If you like chunky bits of mushroom in your soup, don’t blender it as much. If you like the soup smooth, blender until completely smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half and half or alternative milk, and any reserved mushrooms. Bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.
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