Mushrooms in Soup 101
October 27, 2018 5:00 AM   Subscribe

What are the theories/techniques behind infusing mushrooms into soups, especially if you have an Instant Pot? I would like to start adding mushrooms to a variety of soups for a boost of umami, but I can't seem to find a comprehensive Food-Lab-esque guide for this.

I'm specifically looking for techniques that use mushrooms as an accoutrement to soups and stews made in an Instant Pot. For example, adding mushrooms to minestrone, Thai coconut curry, miso, maybe even rajma masala.

From reading a wild panoply of mushroom-in-soup recipes, some questions:

* When should I use dry or fresh mushrooms? Or should I always have both? That's so complicated!
* Along with that, how should I cook dry/fresh mushrooms? What are the first steps? Some recipes say put oil first, some say just sauté the mushrooms as is, since there's a lot of liquid. And then do you wait until it's fully browned?
* Which type of mushroom will boost up soups the most?
* There's this Serious Eats article about "mushroom tea," which is great and something I'm looking for.

Not looking for:

* Simply recipes (if you link to one, help me understand the rationale behind how that recipe cooks mushrooms - I want to know how to adjust all other soup recipes)
* Techniques requiring blending/roasting
* Techniques that cook mushrooms separately - how do I infuse the soup itself with the mushroom flavor?
* Cream of mushroom techniques/creamy anything
posted by facehugger to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, one last thing - looking for vegan techniques, so no butter!
posted by facehugger at 5:01 AM on October 27, 2018

It’s pretty simple in my book: cut them smaller and add them sooner for a heavily cooked mushroom whose mild flavor disperses evenly throughout, add them later and in larger pieces for more al dente chunks of stronger, more concentrated mushroom flavor. You can do both in the same soup.

Dried depends more on the type in my experience. I always soak my dry shitaakes so that I can cut them a bit (hard to do dry). Wine does work well for that, but I don’t always want wine in my soup. For snow ear fungus, I crumble straight in to the pot.

Sauteeing in oil at the start does indeed help pull out more/different flavor, but I personally think the difference is not as marked as it is for e.g. onions or garlic, so I only sautée mushrooms into soups when I am already doing that for something else anyway. Also I usually want to add more later in that case.

Generally, adding the same ingredient at a few different times to a soup will give you the fullest flavor profile of that ingredient: you get the heavily broken down deep flavors from the early additions, but you lose the volatile aromatics. So you get those back by adding more near the end.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:01 AM on October 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Get dried porcinis, grind 'em in one of those spice grinders to powder.

Instant flavor, good for gravies too.
posted by Max Power at 6:21 AM on October 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I love mushrooms and experiment with them a lot for added umami flavor in vegan dishes.

Basically, using mushrooms goes like this:
- First, driving off moisture to intensify flavor (through drying, sauteeing, roasting, etc.). Save any liquid you create in this process -- it's essentially a tasty mushroom stock.
- (Optional) After you've driven off enough moisture, browning in fat to deepen flavor
- (Optional) Rehydrating (with water, wine, the reserved mushroom liquid, soup stock, etc.) to achieve the texture you want and make the flavors more available to your tongue.

Here's a great recipe that allows you to feel your way thorugh these steps: Easy Roasted Mushrooms.

Be aware that mushrooms with too little moisture can develop a rubbery texture. Browning in fat and chopping them to a paste (as in duxelles) can help counteract this; drying them and using them as a powder avoids the issue altogether. Sometimes, that rubbery texture may be desirable, as when you're subbing them for meat.

In my cupboard, I have a jar labeled "Umami Magic". In this jar are dried porcini (sometimes sold as bolete) mushrooms that I have powdered finely. A tablespoon or two in the pot will add a deep, savory, almost beefy bass note to any dish that needs it. It's especially helpful for vegan dishes, which often lack that depth, or for mushroom dishes where you want to boost the mushroominess.

Here's how to make it:
1. Find some dried porcini mushrooms. Accept no substitutes -- no other mushroom is as effective for this powder. I've seen people selling pre-powdered packages of shiitake (a distant second), and other mushrooms like portobello (sawdust by comparison to porcini). Hold out for the good stuff.
2. Use a food processor to powder them finely. You might want to wrap the food processor in saran wrap while you're doing it, since this releases a lot of dust.
3. Sift the powder. Anything that doesn't go through the sieve should be processed again until it does.

Here's how to use it:
1. Add 1-3 T to the pot at any point you like.
2. Enjoy the umami majesty.

Some folks will also make this into a table seasoning by adding salt and spices (for instance: this magic mushroom powder). This is also good.

This Vegan Mushroom Soup recipe from Serious Eats is vegan and delicious. I've never actually made the shiitake crisps -- the soup is delicious even without garnish. Add a few spoonfuls of the porcini powder for extra-intense flavor.

If you have not yet encountered mushroom duxelles, you should try it. It's an easy-to-make, intensely-flavored paste made with mushrooms, shallots, thyme, and some sort of fat (classically butter, but you can use olive oil or a vegan substitute with delicious results). Here's a good recipe (just sub out that butter for a vegan fat).

Duxelles can be used...
- spread on bread or crackers, like a pate
- stuffing for ravioli, little phyllo dough packets, or anything else that needs a stuffing
- layer of goodness inside a Wellington (see for instance this Portobello Wellington
- anywhere else you desire a burst of mushroom flavor
posted by ourobouros at 6:47 AM on October 27, 2018 [30 favorites]

My Farmers Market has a vendor who jars dried mushrooms, I always pick up a few and throw them into any sauce or gravy or soup that feels like it needs that flavor. Porcini is great!
posted by amanda at 7:48 AM on October 27, 2018

I can't tell if this falls outside your question parameters, but have you experimented with mushroom broth? I started making batches of this with mushroom stems I store in a freezer bag, and I've noticed that it definitely gives soups a flavor boost that regular veggie broth doesn't. Since it's just broth you don't typically need to make any other adjustments to your recipe, so it's an easy swap.
posted by saramour at 8:46 AM on October 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love using the mushroom part of this recipe as a base.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 9:01 AM on October 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Came in to say saute them in a tasty fat (butter, bacon fat, olive oil, etc.), stayed for ourobouros' excellent comment.
posted by theora55 at 9:06 AM on October 27, 2018

Best answer: Seconding ouroborous, You can also make some badass infusions of oil, where you take dried shitake or porcini mushrooms and some scallions, pour vegetable oil to cover, and then let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours or so. The oil that comes out is deeply fragrant, keeps in the fridge beautifully, and a teaspoon into a big bowl of soup makes it smell wonderfully, remarkably mushroom-y and umami-ish.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:39 AM on October 27, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'm seconding sauteing (sp?) at the start ! With your garlic and onions, using the saute function on the IP. Then add water/stock and whatever else and cover and pressure cook your soup. You can just play around with various sorts of fresh mushrooms, and see what you like..

If you want to use dried mushrooms, you'll have to rehydrate them before sauteeing them.
posted by elgee at 9:41 AM on October 27, 2018

I find that fresh mushrooms start to taste good when you really brown them. When the released liquid is cooked off they start to change color. It even works in a dry pan. Be patient to maximize flavour. Don't forget to deglaze with stock, wine or just water.
posted by Jode at 10:06 AM on October 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can saute mushrooms in olive oil on medium-high heat until nicely browned and most liquid is coked off, then add sherry or port, or just serve them on soup or risotto.
posted by theora55 at 10:16 AM on October 27, 2018

I pick a ton (well, several lbs) of wild mushrooms in the fall and I dry like 90% of it. The first year, I froze some to use "fresh", but I don't even bother anymore because dried mush are awesome.
I keep the prettier ones mostly whole to rehydrate and use in things like soup. Sometimes I throw them in whole to infuse right in the broth, but usually I like to soak them in their own bowl so I can cut them in the right size pieces and better dose the mushroom flavor in the soup by dropping in as much liquid as I like.
Ugly mushrooms get powderized and then sprinkled on everything. Eggs. Meat. Other mushrooms. Ramen noodles that contain all the above. ourobouros has it right, that stuff is magic. I keep it in a mushroom-shaped pepper shaker, but you don't have to.
posted by Freyja at 11:26 AM on October 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

Dried mushrooms.
For me, it's the fastest, most efficient way to add umami and mushroom taste to whatever i'm cooking.
I agree with ourobouros that porcini are king.
Don't limit yourself, though. Mushrooms in general changes character when dried, usually to the better (more umami, more concentrated).
Anyway: I usually just crumble a handful of dried mushrooms into whatever I'm cooking and if they boil for more than 5 minutes, they are usually good.
posted by Thug at 12:14 PM on October 27, 2018

Saveur has a recipe that might be good if you want something without actual bits of mushroom in it.
posted by juv3nal at 3:01 PM on October 27, 2018

I just ordered dried porcini mushrooms.

What I do is heat up some water in the microwave, and soak a pinch of them. Then I cut them up, and yes, I use fresh mushrooms with them, and then I pour the liquid into my dish.

I'm not going to blitz those little gems, I'm going to use them, as they were intended to be used: to be rehydrated.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:01 PM on October 27, 2018

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