Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Keeping with my soup kick, I next tried this Hungarian Mushroom Soup recipe. I like mushrooms more than I like broccoli, but still don’t incorporate them into my diet as much as I’d like so whipping up a big batch of soup to freeze makes it quick and easy. I’ll admit that I’m starting to crave the Loaded Baked Potato Soup I made last Spring and am having to hold myself back: I’m trying very hard to get my old climbing physique back after a semester of balancing work with classes put pudge on places it’s never been before. We’ll ignore, for the moment, that I cannot afford an indoor climbing pass this winter and thus cannot get a “climber’s physique” exactly, but I’m shooting for as close as I can get between the gym, yoga, and absolutely killer Tracy Anderson muscle routines (Hollywood froofroo or no, this gal makes some serious exercises!).

 

Hungarian Mushroom Soup (adapted from Eating Well, February 2011)

Ingredients:

1   T   EVOO

1½   lb   mushrooms, thinly sliced

1   medium onion, diced

3   T   AP flour

2   T   paprika, preferably Hungarian *

2   T   dried dill

4   C   mushroom or reduced-sodium beef broth

1   C   water

1   C   Half & Half

1½   lbs   russet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” pieces

¾   t   salt

reduced-fat sour cream for garnish as desired

* Note: source recipe describes Hungarian paprika as having a “fuller, richer flavor than regular paprika”. I was looking forward to finding and using the authentic spice, but was out of luck. Is anyone familiar with Hungarian paprika and can attest to its superiority?


Procedure:

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed sauce pan over Medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates (10 – 15 minutes). I cheated and drained the liquid off after there was still a substantial amount 15 minutes in.
  2. Reduce heat to Medium and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 more minutes or until the mushrooms are very soft. Then add flour, paprika, and dill and cook – still stirring – for about 15 seconds before pouring in the broth, water, and Half & Half. Add potatoes, cover, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Reduce heat as needed to maintain a “lively simmer” and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender (about 5 minutes).
  4. Remove from heat and stir in salt. For a thicker, creamier soup use an immersion blender at this point (or blend batches in an upright blender) to cream about half of the veggies leaving a good number of chunks still whole.
  5. As soup is served add a dollop of sour cream on top for garnish if desired.


Beezer’s Notes:

I’m not entirely sure what makes this soup “Hungarian” besides the use of Hungarian paparika (if you can get your hands on some) and the very generous dose of dill, but it has a great flavor unlike any other cream of mushroom soups I’ve had before. There’s a subtle smokiness which must be the paprika and the mushrooms really shine with the dill and potato combo.

I used a mixture of three different kinds of mushrooms. I figured different kinds will add a depth of flavor no matter what the mix and, luckily, they were delicious! Munching on slices of all three – crimini, white, and shiitake – during prep, I discovered I liked the lighter but firmer taste of the raw shittake mushrooms the best and preferred the stronger flavor of crimini over white even though the two are very similar.

What kind of mushrooms do you like the best and why? Are some better for soups than others? I know shiitake and enoki are commonly used in soups, especially in Japan. Portobellos are a great meat substitute and white button ‘shrooms are the fungi of choice for American pizzas…but that’s about it. Any advice?

Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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Baked Fries with Basil and Garlic-Paprika Mayo

I am both very lucky and very spoiled for spending nineteen years of my life living in the great green state of Vermont.  VT is, beyond any doubt, a foodie state: farmer’s markets are everywhere, restaurants like The Skinny Pancake, A Single Pebble, and Bluebird Tavern frequently make headlines; eateries toting “all-green” menus like Magnolia Bistro are starting to appear, and  New England Culinary Institute keeps turning out more fantastic chefs who stay in the state! Oh, and I can’t forget the bakeries

…and all restaurants linked above are in the city of Burlington alone! Since BTown is where I grew up, I know its food-scene the best, but there are just as many – if not more – absolutely amazing places outside the city. My grandmother in particular always requests an out-of-town restaurant for her birthday. It was at one of these restaurants that I tried an appetizer that inspired this entry. It wasn’t anything fancy: a small basket of french fries with an assortment of mayo-dips, but oooh was it good! The fries were skinny and golden little sticks with just a pinch of salt and the dips ranged from spicy, to tangy, to sweet. I don’t remember exactly what the dips contained, but when I decided to make my own homemade fries (baked!) the other day, I wanted to recreate a few of the mayo-flavors I had experienced at that restaurant.

Baked Fries with Basil and Garlic-Paprika Mayo (inspired by Black Sheep Bistro)

Ingredients:

For the Fries…

2   large russet potatoes, washed (about ½ lb.)

¼   C   EVOO

2-3   T   salt (I used ground sea salt for added crunch)

For the Dips…

1   large handful basil leaves, washed (about 1 Cup)

1   clove of garlic, minced

½   t   paprika

2/3   C   mayo (I prefer canola-based mayonnaise)


Procedure:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  2. Slice the potatoes into generous wedges about 2″ long and ½” thick – they will shrink a bit in the oven. Lay them out evenly on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and use a pastry brush or spoon to coat the top side with EVOO. You don’t want them to be soaked, but well covered. Sprinkle half the salt over the wedges and then flip them so the oiled and salted sides are now down.
  3. I did not need to oil again here. The oil had dripped down onto my bakery sheet enough so that the fries were well coated when flipped. If you do need to add more oil now, though, feel free. Just remember: baking is supposed to be healthier than frying. 😉 Sprinkle the remaining salt over the fries and place in the oven. Bake until deep golden brown and slightly crispy (mine took about 15 minutes).
  4. While the fries are baking, prepare the dips: first make the Basil dip by putting 1/3 Cup mayo into a food processor. Chop up your basil leaves a bit if you’re like me and have a mini-machine, or simply dump the whole leaves on top of the mayo. Process on Low for a few bursts until the leaves are completely minced and fully incorporated into the mayo. Put basil dip aside in a small bowl and clean the processor.
  5. To make the garlic dip, put the minced garlic, paprika, and remaining mayo in the food processor and process until smooth. Transfer garlic dip to another small bowl.
  6. When fries are done, slide them onto a paper towel-lined plate until they are cool enough to handle. I did not have to blot mine, but if you used extra EVOO (or are just more health-conscious) you may wish to.
  7. Serve fries as hot as possible without burning, with dollops of both dips. Dips can be saved for up to a week in the fridge and are excellent on sandwiches and wraps.

Beezer’s Notes:

So while you will have to like mayonnaise to enjoy these dips, I am convinced anyone will love these fries no matter what. They’ve got that perfect crunchy-yet-soft texture with the right amount of browning that puts frozen fries to shame. And ya know what? They really aren’t at all difficult to make. The extra 5 minutes you take to slice these up will be more than made up for in the flavor you get from NOT opening a bag of freezer-burned, overly-processed junk…and they’re not fried so you can convince yourself that they’ll count as your vegetable for the day. 🙂

As for the dips, I – for one – really enjoyed them. They did turn out rather thick compared to the dips I loved at the fancy restaurant, but I had decided against diluting (with a bit of milk) since I wanted to use most of it for sandwiches anyway. If you’re going to serve these dips exclusively with fries or chips, you’ll probably want to thin them a bit. My dad wasn’t a fan of the basil flavor (his loss, in my opinion) and said the garlic one was “way too garlic-y” for his taste. Next time, I’d like to try sauteing the garlic first in order to brown it a bit and mellow the flavor. I think that’s what real chefs do to make garlic mayo anyway – am I right?

Overall Enjoyment: ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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