I don’t remember how we ended up with two copies of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but it’s good that we did. The first one came as a wedding gift from one of Jerri’s friends at Maine South High School, but the second copy is a mystery. We now think that it was a bonus book from a book club that we chose because we thought it would make a good gift for someone.
Fortunately, we did not follow through with our generous intention. With one copy at home and another at the cabin, we can make “Potage Velouté Aux Champignons” (Cream of Mushroom Soup) at both locations without carrying the book with us.
I have been making this soup for at least twenty years. Though Jerri has tackled a few recipes from Julia’s book, she finds many a bit intimidating: “If I have to turn the page, I don’t make it,” says she. This is not as extreme as her cousin who wrote me one time that “I don’t make anything that has more than five ingredients.” Both women exaggerate, but not always by a lot.
Julia’s recipe for this soup takes a little more than a page, but it explains exactly how to make the finest tasting Cream of Mushroom Soup you will ever find.
I have tried to condense (oops–a horrible word in this context–makes me think of gooey stuff in cans) and clarify the instructions and explain how I make Julia’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. It’s very easy to make. It takes a few more minutes for the simmering than some recipes, but you can finish the soup in an hour and the results justify the extra time..
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
8 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
6 cups chicken broth seasoned with 1/2 bay leaf and 1/8 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper
3/4 – 1 lb. fresh mushrooms
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 egg yolks
1/2-3/4 cup whipping cream
Peel a yellow onion and mince a quarter cup of it. Wash the mushrooms and remove the stems from the caps. Chop the stems fine. Wash the parsley.
Put six cups of chicken broth, two medium sprigs of parsley and 1/8 teaspoon thyme in a two quart saucepan and bring it to a simmer.
While the broth is heating, melt three tablespoons of the butter in a Dutch oven or large saucepan (at least 2 1/2 quarts) over low heat. Add the onions and cook them slowly for about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour, raise the heat a little and continue cooking the onions for three or four more minutes. Stir continuously, being careful not to brown the flour and onions.
Remove the onions and flour from the heat and stir in the hot broth. Make sure that the onion and flour mixture is well blended with the liquid. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and the chopped mushroom stems. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the broth partially covered for 20 or 30 minutes.
While the broth simmers, thinly slice the mushroom caps and set them aside in a bowl.
After 20 minutes or so, strain the broth through a sieve or colander with fine holes into a large bowl to remove the solids. Press the juice from the chopped mushroom stems, onions and parsley and return the broth to the large pan. Discard the solids.
In a two quart saucepan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat until it is foaming and toss in the sliced mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Stir, reduce the heat, cover and cook slowly for five minutes.
Pour the mushrooms and their cooking liquid into the large pan with the strained broth and simmer for ten minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.*
To finish the soup, beat two egg yolks until smooth with a whisk, and then whisk them thoroughly into a half to three-quarter cup of heavy cream in a mixing bowl. While beating continuously, very slowly add one to two cups of the hot broth to the eggs and cream mixture.
Heat the broth in the large pan until it starts to steam. While whisking continuously, gradually add the cream and egg mixture to the broth. Stir the soup over moderate heat for three or four minutes to poach the eggs. Stir continuously and do not let the soup come to a simmer.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in two or three tablespoons of softened butter. Ladle into bowls decorated with sprigs of parsley.
*If you’re not serving the soup immediately, you can set it aside after you have simmered the sliced mushrooms in the broth but before you add the cream and eggs. Remove it from the heat, leave it uncovered and film the surface with a spoonful of cream. Reheat it to a simmer before finishing the soup. This means that if you allow ten minutes to bring the broth to a simmer, you can have bowls of soup on the table in less than 20 minutes.
NOTES: You can make this soup with half and half, but it will not taste as good. If you use salted butter, reduce the amount of salt you add to the mushrooms.
When I can find them at a reasonable price, I like to use baby bella mushrooms for this soup. I think that they give it a more intense mushroom flavor, but white button mushrooms make a great soup too.
When adding the hot broth to the cream and egg mixture, I use a quarter cup measuring cup to dribble the broth very slowly into the cream while stirring quickly with a whisk. If you add the broth too quickly or don’t stir fast enough you can curdle the eggs.
The same thing can happen when you combine the cream, egg and broth mixture with the hot broth or if you boil the soup. Speaking from experience, I can say that the soup will taste fine anyway, but it won’t have the wonderful silky texture of a perfect cream of mushroom soup.