Last week, three planets aligned closely with one another in a rare astronomical event. However, due to heavy rains, I missed the show. But on the other hand, everything lined up for the makings of a hardy soup — the cold winds, a heavy downpour, which caused one large wild mushroom to appear at a farmer’s market produce stall, and Ruth Reichl’s response to what would one find in her freezer (homemade stock) all served as an inspiration.
The wild sheepshead mushroom, also called hen-of-the-woods, looks like it could have come from the depths of the ocean. As the name suggests, the mushroom looks like the head of a sheep. Unlike a regular mushroom with one stalk and cap, sheepshead mushrooms grow in a clump with several stems and bracket-shaped layers of caps. They sprout quickly with the rains, and grow under old oak trees. Sheepshead’s moisture-rich stalks break down and thicken stock, which gives the resulting soup an unmistakable earthy taste.
I bought a pound from a four-pound monster mushroom at the farmer’s market, and thawed out the good stock. Excited to cook my first wild mushroom, I was unprepared for an ancient looking creature that crawled out from under the layers of the mushroom’s caps. I did have to remind myself that flavors are nurtured through the good, bad, and ugly facets of nature!
Wild Mushroom Soup
Mushrooms – 1 lb, cleaned and chopped roughly
Butter or oil – 4 tbsp
Onion – 1, diced
Garlic – 6 cloves, chopped
Stock – 1½ pints
Parsley – 1 bunch
Salt and pepper – to taste
Truffle oil – 1-2 tbsp (optional)
- Heat a pan and add the butter or oil.
- Add the chopped onions and sauté, until they are transparent.
- Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
- Add the chopped mushrooms and stir-fry for a minute.
- Add the stock. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer.
- Simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the mushroom stalks are tender.
- Strain the mushroom chunks out and put them through a food processor. Combine the pureed mushroom with the liquid stock.
- Serve the soup with a drizzle of truffle oil and a few parsley stalks.
Note: A mix of cultivated mushrooms works just as well for this easy to make soup.