There’s nothing like soup to perk up a rainy day or a holiday gathering. And since this simple soup uses non-perishable/long-life ingredients like dried mushrooms, onions, and squash, you can stash away your ingredients now so that you can make soup whenever the mood strikes you. You could even skip roasting your own squash and opt for canned butternut or pumpkin squash instead, but roasting and pureeing your own will give the soup an extra-velvety texture.
I’ve used dried lobster mushrooms in this soup, but just about any dried mushroom would work — as opposed to fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms have more concentrated flavors. Shiitake, porcini, crimini, portabella, chanterelle, wood ear, morels … most markets stock various types of dried mushrooms. Just be sure to soak your mushrooms in hot water for a good 20 minutes to soften them. Depending on how old the mushrooms are, you may have to let them soak for 30 minutes. Another way to speed up the softening process is to cover the mushrooms with boiling water rather than hot tap water.
But although you can use whatever dried mushroom you like, if you can get your hands on lobster mushrooms, snap them up! Not only do they have a distinctively lobster-like flavor, they also have a reddish lobster-like color. Those bright red mushroom edges will provide a gorgeous visual pop for your earth-toned soup.
Silky Mushroom Squash Soup Serves 4 for lunch or 2 for a very hearty dinner. Double or triple the recipe as you like.
1 oz. dried lobster mushrooms (OR any other kind of dried mushrooms)
1 medium Spanish onion, sliced thinly
1 lb. fresh crimini OR baby portabello OR button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chicken broth, preferably from free-range chickens
1 1/2 cups roasted and pureed acorn OR butternut OR pumpkin squash*
1 T. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup cream or crème fraîche, preferably from grass-fed cows
Place dried mushrooms in a small glass bowl and cover with hot water from the tap. Let sit and soften while you make the rest of the soup.
Put a pat of butter or a hefty drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and fresh mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until onions are turning golden brown and the mushrooms are half their original size. Stir in garlic and let cook for another 2 minutes to soften the garlic.
Pour in chicken broth and whisk in pureed squash, thyme, and salt. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Towards the end of the simmering time, drain the dried mushrooms and chop them. Stir them into the soup.
Remove the soup from the heat and gradually stir in the cream. (If the soup is boiling, let it cool down slightly before stirring in the cream.) Serve immediately, garnishing with chives and grated Parmesan if you like. Leftover soup can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. This makes an impressive holiday soup, particularly if you find those lovely lobster mushrooms, so feel free to make the soup ahead of time and reheat it on the stove just before serving.