We started foraging in Northern California in the fall of 2005, while working at the Martini House Restaurant in St. Helena. This is where our love for wild edibles was born and grew: from days of washing sinks full of mushrooms to the five-course mushroom tasting menu we prepared everyday. We were able to observe and incorporate the wide variety of wild mushrooms that were growing right in our backyard.
Most people like to keep their foraging spots a secret. I believe in this to some extent, there are always a couple of places you might keep to yourself. Our chefs Todd Humphries and Chris Litts took us under their wings to show us a few of their secrets. One thing I will never forget that I feel should be shared with any new forager: the woods should always be left the same way as you found them (maybe with just a few less mushrooms). After harvesting your bounty, it should almost look like the earth has been untouched.
I can remember days where we found five different types of mushrooms on the California coast. We found black trumpets, yellow foot, hedgehogs, oysters and candy caps (the bag we used still smells like candy caps almost ten years later). It’s days and memories like that that will keep you going out again and again, no matter how successful you are.
Since we moved to Oregon last December, 2014 was our first fall in the Pacific Northwest. We were lucky enough to meet Chris Williams from Brooks Winery, who guided us in foraging this new area. The forest just outside of wine country was abundant beautiful golden chanterelles and giant lobster mushrooms. With moving North to Oregon, we’ve learned how the seasons change, as do the places you find mushrooms in the forest. Much like finding a new restaurant where the food is always good, you can find the right woods that you can always go back to and forage.
This recipe is one that became part of our repertoire while working for Chef Todd at Martini House. He is known for this recipe and there is good reason behind it. It’s the tastiest mushroom soup I have ever had!! It is a great dish to serve this time of year, not only because of the cool winter weather, but also because of the abundance of wild mushrooms the woods give to us during the fall and winter months. Whether you are foraging your own mushrooms, buying locally sourced wild mushrooms at the market, or just using white button mushrooms, this dish will be a hit with everyone!
Chef Todd’s Mushroom Soup Recipe
- 5 lbs mushrooms (we like to use a mix of button mushrooms, lobster mushrooms and chanterelles)
- 6 shallots, peeled and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 lb butter, unsalted
- 1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
- 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
- 2 bay leaves, whole
- 2 cup white wine
- 2 cup marsala cooking wine
- 1 gallon heavy cream
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 2 Tbsp Banyuls vinegar (substitute sherry vinegar if Banyuls is not available)
- 2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
- salt & white Pepper to taste
- 2 bunches of chives, minced (for garnish)
- Nobody likes a gritty mushroom soup, so make sure to wash your mushrooms very well, changing the water 3-4 times or until it runs clear.
- Drain the mushrooms on a tray lined with a clean kitchen towel to remove any excess water.
- In a food processor or by hand chop the mushrooms and set aside.
- Start by melting the butter on medium heat in your favorite heavy bottom pot, something large enough to hold about 3 gallons.
- Once the butter starts to bubble and get foamy (before it browns) add your shallots, and garlic.
- Sweat the shallots and garlic on medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are translucent.
- Once translucent, add your thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves and sweat for another minute or two.
- Add your mushrooms and cover with a lid.
- Turn the flame down to low heat and let the mushrooms cook slowly to release their liquid.
- After about 2-3 minutes take the lid off, turn the flame back up to medium-high and let that liquid reduce.
- When the liquid is almost gone add your white wine and marsala and reduce that until almost dry as well.
- Add your cream and milk.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes until it starts to thicken up.
- Take the pot off the heat and start ladling it into the blender.
- Purée until smooth and strain through a fine mesh strainer.
- Season with the soy sauce, Banyuls vinegar, salt and white pepper.
- Serve pipping hot with a sprinkle of minced chives, add some brioche croutons if you really want to jazz it up.
– And as always, LETumEAT!!!