Alex and I recently traveled to Playa and stayed at an awesome all inclusive resort called Unico. Guys. This place was clutch! Excursions and spa treatments were included, gorgeous grounds, amazing service, and some of the best resort food I’ve ever had. A stand-out favorite of the week was a delicious mushroom “cappucino,” served in a beautiful glass latte mug at the resort’s upscale Italian restaurant. I’m a sucker for good soup, and this presentation was something I had never seen before.
I’ve cooked my mushroom soup recipe for years now–it’s earthy, creamy, and has this amazing fluffy and velvety texture from it being thickened naturally, making it much lighter than a roux-based soup. The foamed milk adds a fun whimsical element, but if that’s not your scene, just skip it. It’s totally bourgie and over the top, but ya know, so am I.
- 5 styrofoam containers of baby bella mushrooms (white button mushrooms are fine too. Whatever is cheaper at your grocery store!)
- 1/2 a cup of dried porcini mushrooms (This ingredient is actually super important, it’s where all the flavor comes from. At my grocery store, they’re in either the produce or bulk section in a little baggie, ask someone for help. If you can’t find them at the store, they are worth ordering on Amazon, as they impart a ton of flavor and have several other applications. The dried mushrooms in the Asian section of the grocery store would work too, or even a bag of Trader Joe’s frozen porcinis in a pinch)
- A medium onion
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon leaves
- 1/2 a cup of half and half
- Truffle oil (optional. Truffle oil is tricky and can really easily ruin a good dish with its strong perfume-y quality. Only use the good stuff from William Sonoma or somewhere fancy like that–if all you have is the kind from Target, leave it out)
- About 1/2 a cup of milk, for foaming (optional but necessary for a dramatic presentation)
- Pour a cup of hot water in a bowl and add the dried porcinis. Let the mushrooms steep and soften in the water while you work on the next two steps.
- Peel and roughly chop the onion. Put the mushrooms in a colander (you’ll probably have to do this in batches) and spray them down with water, swishing them around until the dirt is cleaned off from the mushrooms. This is important, mushrooms alway have soil and grit on them and that is very unpleasant to eat. Rough chop all the mushrooms.
- In a large pot, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat and sweat the onions for 5-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for 10-15 more minutes over medium heat. The mushrooms will expel a lot of liquid while they cook down.
- Add the dried porcinis and the liquid they steeped in, a couple dashes of salt, and half of the chicken broth to your soup pot. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes
- Cut the heat, stir in the tarragon, and let the soup cool down for about 10 minutes. Tarragon has a licorice-like flavor that I absolutely LOVE with tomatoes and mushrooms, but if you don’t like the smell, trade it or for mild parsley instead. Transfer half of the soup to a blender, and blend (use a towel to hold the lid down tight) for about a minute, until the soup is smooth. Pour soup into a clean pot, then repeat with the other half of the soup.
- Once all the soup is blended, stir in the half and half, and add your reserved chicken broth, a little at a time until the soup is the consistency that you like. Some days I don’t need any reserved broth, some days I need all of it. Mushrooms man, they have a mind of their own. You can always add broth but it’s much more difficult to fix a too-thin soup, so I always try to err on the side of starting with a conservative amount of liquid. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if you need it.
- Use a latte machine to foam your milk. If you don’t have one, warm up the milk for 30 seconds or so in the microwave, then put it in a clean blender and whip for about 30 seconds.
- To serve, pour soup in bowls and drizzle with a little bit of truffle oil, a couple tarragon leaves, and the foam spooned on top. Another dramatic presentation is to serve the soup in pretty mugs with a generous helping of foam on top, like they did at Unico. Just ya know, warn people of what they’re about to consume first 🙂
Remix The Dish: I always have dried porcinis on hand because they make a clutch steak rub–blend them in a spice grinder with peppercorns, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, kosher salt, and a dash of sugar. Instead of foamed milk, fresh whipped cream (no sugar, duh) would be fun too. Or you could just garnish with some creme fraiche….you basic bitch.
As much as fried chicken tries to steal the show, Southern food is really all about the side dishes. Think about your last trip to a country dive–sure the catfish was good, but how ’bout those green beans, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and pickled beets?
A pot of hoppin’ John (blackeyed peas and rice), and melted greens with pepper sauce and cornbread are two of my favorite meals on earth. This soup combines them into a meal perfect for New Year’s Day (or ya know, a rainy Fall Sunday like today). Plus it’s ridiculously easy, comes together in less than an hour, and totally made up of freezer staples. Get on this like, now.
- 1 package of frozen blackeyed peas
- 1 package of frozen turnip greens (collards are fine too. My frozen turnip greens had cubed turnips in them, which is totally cool. If you want to use fresh greens, finely julienne Swiss chard, kale, or mustard greens. Spinach will be too mushy)
- One smoked turkey wing (a ham hock, a diced link of andouille sausage, or 5 diced strips of bacon would work too! Or you could make this a veggie dish and skip the meat–just add some cumin to mimic the deep smokey flavor)
- A small onion, diced
- 2 small or one large carrot, diced
- A stalk of celery, diced
- 4 cups of chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning
- Cooking oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- A small splash of vinegar–red, apple cider, or white is fine
- A dash of Louisiana hot sauce (optional)
- Garnishes: cooked white rice, cornbread, hot pepper vinegar, raw sliced sweet onions
- Toss the diced onions, carrots, and celery into a large soup pot with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Let the veggies sweat and soften for 7-8 minutes. Add in the meat element and let brown for 3-5 minutes more. Toss in the chicken broth, Cajun seasoning, and black eyed peas and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes has passed, add in the greens and continue to cook for 20 more minutes. Stir in the splash of vinegar and a few shakes of hot sauce. Taste and add salt if needed. If you used a turkey or ham bone, remove the bone and pick the meat from it, then add the meat back to the soup.
- Serve the beans, greens, and “pot likker” broth over white rice with plenty of hot pepper vinegar. Or be like me and break up cornbread right on top, and alternate spoonfuls with bites of a fresh slice of onion. Pure southern comfort.
Remix The Dish: there’s obviously a ton of flexibility in this soup, with the variety of greens and meat you can use. The beans and greens would also taste awesome drained over a bed of polenta, or drained and stir fried into a hash with a sunny egg on top.
I’m one of those weirdos who really, really likes purees. Basically baby food with salt, cream, and butter to make things delicious. I’ll eat them as a side, as a sauce, as a garnish, as a soup. Mmmm, soup. And guess what? They’re super easy to make, so you should love them too.
Veggie based creamy soups include the same elements. Keep these in mind:
- Aromatics. Usually mirepoix (carrots, onions, and celery) and garlic. Leeks, shallots, ginger, or occasionally bell peppers are used in this application too. Don’t leave this out. ALL good things start with mirepoix (or at least garlic and onions).
- The Main Veg. Cauliflower today, broccoli if I was hankering for a Panera knock-off. Whole canned San Marzano tomatoes are popular in the Triniwood house. Sweet potato, russets, or beans are great hearty choices. Spinach or kale if you’re a certain kind of psycho. Other good choices are carrots, split peas, corn, asparagus, mushrooms, or parsnips.
- A Thickening Agent. Usually people would used a roux (butter and flour, like you’re making gravy) but lately I’ve been leaving this out in favor of using less broth and letting the natural veggie texture do its thang. Definitely saves me some calories. Another low calorie option that will give your soup some body is to cook in a diced potato with the rest of the veg. Some people use cornstarch or tapioca starch or some ish, but I’m not a fan of the gummy texture they impart. ALWAYS use less broth than you think you’ll need–you can always add more, but its difficult to take liquid away.
- Extra Flavors. This part is important in creating a well balanced soup. A splash of orange juice adds a sweet acidity to tomato soup, bacon fat adds a good smokiness to potato or bean based soups, curry tastes delicious in carrot or sweet potato, and the cheese is what makes broccoli worth stinking up your kitchen (hah!). This is the hardest part of making soup, because you have to have a bit of savvy to know when to introduce these flavors to the party. We’ll get to that later.
- The Creamy Part. AKA the BEST part. Favorite agents for this are half and half, sour cream, Greek yogurt, butter, and coconut milk. Or, again, you could be a health nut and leave this part out, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
- Purée. An immersion blender is easy, but I prefer my Vitamix for the silkiest soups. Leave the soup a little chunky if that’s how you like it! Run it through a strainer before serving if you’re real crazy.
- Garnish. Croutons are ye ol’ standby, but cream, infused oil, some sort of little salad or salsa, or the star veggie in a different preparation are all excellent. Garnishes add textural contrast and a pleasant top note flavor.
The roasted shishito salsa was a bit of a happy coincidence. I specifically made it to serve alongside meat for a BBQ I hosted last weekend, then realized how damn delicious it tasted. Plus, it’s a clever way to re-purpose leftover shishito appetizers I’m often stuck with. Gonna bust that one out frequently.
- An onion, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks of celery, diced (I saved the leaves on top to garnish my soup with, #roottoleaf)
- A head of cauliflower, cut into large chunks (cauliflower is softer to cut than you think, just get in there)
- Leftover bacon fat (olive oil is fine too)
- 4 cups of chicken broth (or water and buillion cubes)
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- A big splash of half and half
- Shishito peppers (as much or as little as you have on hand)
- Red wine vinegar
- Chili oil (optional)
- Put about a tablespoon of bacon fat (or a few good glugs of olive oil) in a large pot over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Sweat the veggies for 8-10 minutes, until veggies have softened a bit and onions are translucent. Add the cauliflower, chicken broth, and a dash of kosher salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let bubble away for about 25 minutes. Alternatively, you could do this in an Instant Pot and pressure cook for 15 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, toss the shishitos in olive oil and kosher salt, and place in a hot pan (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Stir every minute or so until they’ve softened with black spots all over, breaking up into batches if you need to to ensure you aren’t crowding the pan.
- Remove shishitos and place on a cutting board, letting them sit until cool enough to handle. Use a knife to chop off the stems, then rough chop the shishitos into slightly uneven, bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with a few good glugs of olive oil and a healthy splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and add more salt or vinegar if it needs it. Set aside until ready to use. PS: this can be done in advance and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. PPS: this “salsa” would taste awesome over steak, chicken, pork, or fish, spooned over cream or goat cheese and served with crackers, tossed into a salad or with roasted veggies, or served with eggs.
- Remove the soup from the heat and let it cool for 10-15 minutes or so. Puree with a stick blender, or in a regular blender in batches (be sure to hold down the lid with a towel, a hot soup explosion would be a disaster). Pour back into the pot and stir in the half and half, some fresh cracked black pepper, and kosher salt to taste.
- Serve soup with shishito peppers, chopped celery leaves, and chili oil as garnish.
Remix The Dish: For broccoli cheese soup, mix a few handfuls of cheese in with the half and half and add white pepper. For mushroom soup, omit the carrots and celery and add dried porcini mushrooms in with the onions instead, and use 4 pints of fresh mushrooms and use 3 cups of broth. 2 bundles of asparagus should do for asparagus soup, and use greek yogurt or sour cream as the creamy element. Bacon and crouton garnish would taste awesome with split pea, bean, or white potato soup. I love making carrot or sweet potato soup with red curry paste and ginger added in while the aromatics saute, lemongrass and honey while it simmers, then add coconut milk right before you puree. A fall favorite of mine is pumpkin beer cheese soup, which sounds nuts but tastes awesome. Use a large can of pumpkin puree instead of the cauliflower, reduce the broth to 2 cups and stir in a whole bottle of ale mid-simmer, then add some cheddar after you puree. Garnish with croutons and fried sage leaves.