Mushrooms in the wild can be an exquisite find. Part of the appeal is the lushness of their immediate surroundings, the delicate moss, decaying leaves, spent pine needles, towering trees, and the quiet. If a soup composed of edible wild mushrooms, farro and a few herbs could be the culinary complement of that scene . . . that would be a memorable meal.
I made such a soup recently with dried wild mushrooms and farro. It may be the color of oatmeal, but trust me, it’s not your morning mush. It’s a soup of the earth, for nighttime, for candlelight and romance, then again it’s so Monday night.
Getting through cool months with seasonal local food on the table can be challenging. I’m interested in Farro and how I might use it more often. A package of dried wild mushrooms from Foraged & Found Edibles in the pantry got me to thinking about a mushroom soup with Bluebird Farms Farro and whatever herbs I could forage from the backyard. It’s your basic homemade mushroom soup with the addition of a locally grown grain, farro, which adds depth of flavor, nutrition and just enough chew.
We have kale growing in the backyard so we had that on the side and garlic bread croutons for the soup – the accessory that transforms a soup and salad meal to another level. Like french fries, who can resist a good crouton? Have you ever ordered according to the fries principle? “I’ll take anything that comes with fries.” Croutons are like that.
I used about a cup of dried wild mushrooms. You could use fresh Chanterelles when they’re available, or Criminis which are available year-round. The idea is to gather the ingredients for the soup using local seasonal products as much as possible. Thus, the taste of a season.
Wild Mushrooms & Farro Soup Recipe
Fast food from home: Cook farro a day or two ahead and this soup can be on the table in about 35 minutes with 15 minutes of prep and then an eye on the pot.
Ingredients: Dried wild mushrooms/ Farro from Bluebird Farms is available at grocery stores and some Farmer’s Markets/ Shallots/ Water, chicken or vegetable stock/ Fresh or dried herbs like thyme and rosemary/ Heavy cream.
Directions: Cook Farro separately according to package directions. When done, about 45 minutes, drain farro and set aside, reserving the excess liquid for possible use in the soup. 1:5 ratio of farro to liquid is recommended. I used 1/2 cup farro with 2 1/2 cups liquid and ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of cooked farro.
Rehydrate 1 cup dried mushrooms in 3 cups boiling water/ Let sit for at least 15 minutes/ Since there’s often grit with dried mushrooms, remove rehydrated mushrooms with a slotted spoon and pour their soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve/ Reserve the strained liquid for the soup.
In the meantime, sauté finely chopped shallots, a couple of tablespoons, in 2 T butter/ If using any fresh mushrooms add them now and sauté with shallots and butter for 5 minutes along with fresh or dried herbs to taste/ If unsure about ‘to taste’, start with a couple of pinches of thyme and rosemary, add a little more later if needed. Less is more in this soup in order for the mushrooms to have center stage./ Add coarsely chopped rehydrated mushrooms and liquid to the pan with shallots/ Add another 2 cups of liquid – water, vegetable or chicken broth/ Season lightly with salt & pepper/ Simmer with lid on for 20 minutes, then another 15 minutes with lid off/ Let soup cool a bit before pureeing it in a blender/Return pureed soup to the saucepan, add ½ – 1 cup heavy cream and the previously cooked farro/ Add some of the reserved farro cooking liquid if a thinner consistency is desired/ Reheat, do not boil, stirring gently and adjust season as needed.
This is not a silky smooth soup, though it could be with additional blending – the lightly puréed mushroom mixture with the addition of farro give it texture and a slightly nutty background. Good any time, but it’s special enough for Saturday night as a first course, embellished with an extra spoonful of cream and a few finely chopped herbs like thyme or chives to make it pretty, some garlic croutons, or a few drops of truffle oil at serving.
Dehydrated mushrooms, dehydrated anything, is intensified in flavor. The less is more philosophy applies here. A handful of dried mushrooms are a major wake-up call when added to anything at all. That’s why they’re such a good investment at the Farmer’s Market in October/November or whenever you can get them. And the Farro is grown in the Methow Valley in Washington State. Originally cultivated and grown for culinary use in Italy, Bluebird Grain Farms grows and markets farro. Their products are now available online and in many grocery stores in Washington state.