We are a little past the peak of the mushroom season now, but it's still quite possible to get a whole variety of fresh cultivated and wild mushrooms. And what better way to have them than in a simple soup, that really brings out their flavor?
For this soup, I would choose about one-half cultivated mushrooms, and one-half wild mushrooms, simply for the sake of cost - but of course if you can afford all wild mushrooms, by all means go all the way! It's also not too bad with all cultivated mushrooms either. Any kind of mushrooms that catch your eye would do; the only ones I would avoid are shimeji and shiitake. Shimeji are the white, rather tasteless stringy mushrooms often used in Japanese dishes; they are rather trendy, but to my mind only good for texture, not flavor. Shiitake I would also avoid because it has a very distinctive and rather overwheming flavor to me. If you love shiitake though, you could make an all-shiitake version too.
For this version, I used brown cultivated mushrooms, sometimes called chestnut mushrooms, plus wonderful yellow chantarelles, oyster mushrooms, and a couple of porcini. The aroma and flavor are absolutely wonderful. If you are on a strict low-fat diet, you can omit the cream and simply simmer it gently in the vegetable stock and it will still be quite good.
Once you've had this you'll never go back to canned Cream of Mushroom Soup again.
Mélange of mushrooms soup
Brush off any dirt from the mushrooms with a moist paper towel. Thinly slice the cultivated mushrooms; sort of cut up the wild mushrooms (the chantarelles and oyster mushrooms you can almost tear apart with your hands). Chop the garlic and shallot or onion finely.
Heat about 1 Tbs. unsalted butter in a heavy-bottom pot. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until just limp. Add the cultivated mushrooms, and a bit more butter if you like, and saute until the mushrooms start to shrink. At first they will give out a lot of moisture, which will evaporate quickly then the mushrooms will turn brown and shrink. Add the wild mushrooms at this point (they are more tender than the cultivated ones) and briefly sauté them.
Add enough water to make the mushrooms float just a bit (that means, enough to cover, and a bit more to that). Add the stock cube. At this point, if you are a neat person tie up the parsley, thyme and bay leaf in a bit of cheesecloth and dangle it in the pot - or, if you're like me and are a messy cook, just add the thyme - dried of the leaves of a sprig of fresh, a bayleaf, and the parsley sprigs whole into the pot. You'll be fishing out the parsley and bay leaf later.
Let this simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
Add the cream, stirring. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer just a bit more (about 5 minutes) until piping hot. Take out the bay leaf and parsley before serving.
Feeds 4 very hungry people with good bread for lunch, or makes a very nice starter for a winter meal.