Mushroom & Parsnip Soup

The rest of my holiday vacation went by quickly, as I knew it would. I used the time to bake and cook more (surprise, surprise), including the best crumble-topped apple pie I’ve ever made. The recipe comes from the revised Tartine book, and it’s truly spectacular—if you have the book, give it a go (otherwise, I’ll try to post the recipe soon). I also made candied orange peel and marmalade for the first time, which was a long but satisfying process. I spent plenty of time with family and friends, trekking across green winter hills and bundling up at breweries. I spent the rest of the time knitting with our cats cozied up on my lap, rain merrily pitter-pattering across the leaves outside our windows.

Shortly after I went back to work, I bought an iPad so that I could better explore the world of digital illustration. I’ve never been the type of person who draws for the sake of drawing, but these new tools have seen me put in hours on doodles. The excitement for my re-found drawing abilities made me realize that I truly have too many hobbies—what with cooking, baking, knitting, print-making, photography, blogging, gardening, reading, and now illustrating, I don’t know how I’m going to split my time between them all. I just can’t imagine giving up any of them!

Last Friday I took the plunge and got my lingual braces (braces that go on the inside of your teeth) installed. When I was finally able to close my mouth after the hour and a half it took to put them in, it felt like I had a fence of metal stakes pointing at my tongue. Oh, and I now have a huge lisp. Everyone says it will diminish as my tongue gets used to the foreign objects, but I will definitely sport at least a slight lisp until I get them off in about a year. So that’s fun. (I just have to keep telling myself, “I chosthe thisth, I chosthe thisth.”)

As anyone who’s had braces of any kind will know, the first few days are pretty torturous. Your teeth feel like they’re falling out, which makes chewing anything impossible. In my case, it’s even more unrealistic because my tongue doesn’t want to move around any more than it has to. I whimpered and gummed my way through a few bites of my freshly baked olive bread before realizing, sadly, that it really wasn’t worth it. Since then, I have been living off soup and smoothies. I actually love soup, but I really miss the variety of meals I usually get to make.

However, I’m trying to see this as a glass-half-full situation and am therefore using the time to branch out into new and exciting kinds of soup, like this mushroom and parsnip one that I adapted from David Tanis’s recipe in the New York Times. It’s absolutely delicious—hearty, satisfyingly savory, and perfect for winter, it almost makes me forget that I still can’t eat anything solid. Almost.

Mushroom & Parsnip Soup
serves 4–6

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 thyme branches
1 bay leaf

7–8 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms, chopped and soaked in hot water for 15 minutes

4 tbsp olive oil
1.5–2 lb wild mushrooms (I used a mix of oyster, maitake, and hedgehog), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tbsp thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced

thyme leaves for garnish
olive oil
crème fraîche or heavy cream (optional)

Melt the butter in a heavy dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. When the butter’s melted, add the onion, parsnips, carrot, thyme branches, bay leaf, 1 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and lightly browned.

Add the chicken broth and soaked dried mushrooms. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

While you’re waiting for the vegetables to brown or the soup to boil, heat the 4 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering-hot, add the sliced mushrooms. Stir to coat in the oil, then leave to brown, but stir occasionally to prevent burning. Once the mushrooms are browned to your liking, sprinkle with a little salt (about 1/2 tsp) and some black pepper. Stir in the minced garlic and 1 tbsp thyme leaves and cook for one more minute. Turn off the heat.

Once the soup is brought to a boil, add 3/4 to 4/5 of the cooked mushrooms to the pot. Set the rest aside for a garnish. Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, until the root vegetables are soft.

Turn off the stove and remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf from the soup. Using an immersion blender or a standing blender, puree the soup until smooth. Taste, and add more salt and pepper as needed.

Serve hot and garnish with a sprinkle of olive oil, some thyme leaves, and a few of the browned mushrooms. Top with a spoonful of cream or crème fraîche, if you’d like.

Enjoy!

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