Elia Aboumrad’s Portobello and Button Mushroom Crème with Walnuts 

Elia Aboumrad’s Portobello and Button Mushroom Crème with Walnuts 

Follow along and learn how to make Elia's Season 2 dish step by step.

We’ve had some really cold weeks in the past few weeks and nothing really warms you up from the inside like soup. Really, those soup commercials on TV are not just pulling your leg.  So, I flipped through my now very trusted Top Chef Cookbook and decided to make Elia’s Creamy Mushroom Soup. OK – it has a fancier name than that.  t’s a Portobello and Button Mushroom Crème with Walnuts. Well, I will say – it certainly is a “crème” – but more on that later. As a very pleasant surprise, this recipe was extremely easy to make. Seriously, in just a little over an hour, soup was “on!!!"

Creating the Base – The Button Mushrooms:
The most tedious part of this is just cleaning the mushrooms. NEVER wash them under water.  Just brush all dirt off. You can do this with a vegetable brush, or do what I do, which is just buff the dirt off with a clean dish towel.

Then slice your button mushrooms.

Now, you sauté them in a 4-quart saucepan until soft in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil.  The recipe says this takes 5 minutes. I found it took more like 10 minutes.
cookbook-chronicles-02Turning it into “Soup::
Next you add the heavy cream to the mushrooms.

Then you add the vegetable stock to the saucepan with the mushrooms. The recipe called for vegetable stock only, but to give the recipe a little more “body,” I used half vegetable stock and half chicken stock. Obviously to keep this recipe 100% vegetarian, you have to stick to the original recipe and only use vegetable stock. 

Let the cream, stock, and mushrooms come to a boil.
cookbook-chronicles-05Once the crème has reached a boil, you lower the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes. 

Then you cover it and let it continue to simmer it for 20 minutes. After that, you remove the crème from the heat and let it stand, covered, for another 20 minutes.

After that the crème should have cooled some, and you can pour it through a fine-mesh sieve into another saucepan. 

I let the crème and the mushrooms sit in the sieve over the new saucepan for little bit (maybe 5 minutes) to really get all the yummy mushroomy creamy liquid out. Now is also the time to give the crème a little try (with a clean spoon, please), and add a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste.
cookbook-chronicles-09The Portobellos:
While the crème is in its various stages of simmering is when you can clean and cube the portobellos.

Then, in a skillet (I used a non-stick skillet), sauté the portobello cubes in a little butter and vegetable oil, just until they are softened – which should be 3 to 5 minutes. 

Toasting the Walnuts:
If you are starting with whole walnuts, you can chop them up with a good knife. Don’t over chop them – you want to feel the crunchiness of the walnuts – you don’t want walnut powder. 

Then just put them in a pan lined with some aluminum foil and put them under the broiler for about 2 minutes to toast. 

Watch them carefully – you don’t want them to burn. If they burn, toss them and chop and toast another set.“Plating” (“Bowling?”) the Soup:
To serve the soup, you need to pour whatever portion makes sense for your soup bowls into the bowl, and then top with a good “handful” of portobello mushrooms, and a tablespoon or so of toasted walnuts and a sprinkling of chopped fresh chives. 

I also suggest adding just a little bit more salt and grinding some fresh pepper on top before serving. The salt and pepper really brings out the flavors of this soup (crème).

How to Make this Already Fabulous Soup Even Better:
I haven’t a clue how to make this soup taste better. It was just fabulous. There is zero question about that – no need to go to a jury. Case closed. BUT, I have to wonder, is there a way to make it just a little less caloric? I mean, it calls for over 4 cups of heavy cream!!! I would consider experimenting with this soup and trying out some of the following techniques to maintain the soup’s richness but cut some of the fat:
(1) Use half & half (instead of heavy cream);
(2) Use more stock and less heavy cream
(3) Make a blonde roux to add to the soup to thicken it;
(4) Add some low-fat Greek (i.e., thick) yogurt; and/or
(5) Add a puréed potato to the soup to thicken it.

Final Word on this Dish
Don’t even consider making this soup if the word “diet” is in your vocabulary, unless you are making it for a dinner party, and it’s a first course and you have the one recipe serve 8 to 10 people! This soup is rich and decadent.

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