Cream soups are the perfect starter for a holiday dinner.
Rich, decadent and velvety smooth, they make an opening statement that a truly sumptuous meal is to follow.
But the bonus is that cream soups are simple to make and can be relatively inexpensive, depending on the vegetable used.
“This is the time of year when the cold sets in, when you want something warm, comforting and filling, with a little more substance to it,” said chef Mark Kent, who teaches cooking at the University of Akron’s hospitality management program and manages University of Akron’s student-run Crystal Room Restaurant.
Kent said cream soups are easy to prepare: Simmer a vegetable in stock until tender, puree, strain to remove any fibrous bits, and add cream and seasonings.
CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP
7 tablespoons butter
8 cups chopped mushrooms, about 1¼ pounds (see note)
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
1¼ cups thinly sliced leek (white part only)
½ cup all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken broth
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1½ cups heavy cream, heated
Fresh lemon juice to taste
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms, celery and leek. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes.
Whisk in the broth gradually. Add the thyme sprig, bring to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a skillet. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Remove and discard the thyme. Puree the soup, then strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Return the soup to the pot and place over low heat. Add the heavy cream and season to taste with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Heat the soup, but do not boil.
Serve in heated bowls, garnished with the reserved cooked mushrooms.
Note: Regular white mushrooms work well in this soup, or use a combination of white and exotic mushrooms, depending on your taste and what is available.
Source: “The Culinary Institute of America: The New Book of Soups”