While most of us in DC have stacked our winter clothes up in the attic or inside a trunk, the truth is, it's still a bit chilly. So today I made this mushroom soup, yet again. I should be tired of it already, since I just cooked 100 portions of it for last Friday's cooking class at the Institute and I had tested it for weeks... But here I go.. It is just too good!
It is not your typical soup at all. It has the woody and earthy feel of the mushrooms, but their flavor is somehow enhanced by the Chile de Árbol. It may sound strange, since one would think that chiles mask the flavor of ingredients. But depending on how you use them, they can pronounce rather than overpower other flavors.
Although the Chile de Arbol is quite spicy, in this soup you can taste its depth but not its heat, since they are browned but never opened. This is one of the subtle ways to use them, as the seeds and veins which contain most of the heat are bundled up inside throughout the cooking.
Luckily, these chiles can be found almost anywhere these days. Like other dried chiles, they are a very smart staple to incorporate into your pantry since they last forever, they are filled with Vitamin A (great excuse to indulge...) and they can enrich your home cooking immensely.
The soup has a flavorful roasted tomato base. You can buy the already roasted tomatoes, but down below I tell you how to roast or char them yourself. It takes no more than 10 minutes, it is rather simple and it gives the soup a nice rustic feel. I include the epazote in the end, but if you don't find it don't worry, it is optional. It just gives it a nice accent.
It takes about 25 minutes to make this soup. Go for it! You can make a double batch and reheat it the next day for lunch, accompanied with some sliced toasted baguette or bolillo, and a slice of ripe avocado on top.
Mushroom, Chile de Arbol and Roasted Tomato Soup
1 1/2 pound, or 6 to 7, ripe roma/guaje tomatoes
3/4 cup white onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 Chiles de Arbol
2 pounds mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
8 cups chickenbroth, homemade or storebought
2 fresh epazote sprigs, may substitue for dried, optional
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
1 or 2 bolillos or small baguettes, sliced and toasted, optional
Char the tomatoes, onion and garlic, by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet under the broiler. Alternatively, you can char them on the grill or on a hot comal, the traditional way. Whichever method you choose, tomatoes will take between 6 to 9 minutes, and the onion and garlic between 3 to 4 minutes. Turn them around halfway through.
Tomatoes are ready when they are completely cooked through, mushy and their skin is charred, blistered and wrinkled. Garlic and onion will have also charred and softened.
Place charred tomatoes, onion and garlic in the blender and puree until smooth. In a pot, heat one tablespoon of the oil and the butter over medium heat until butter starts to bubble. Add Chiles de Arbol and sautee for a couple minutes, turning them around, until they are lightly browned and crisp.
Add sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, cover the pot and let them steam for 5 minutes.
In a soup pot, add a tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high heat. Stir the tomato puree into the pot. For a smoother feel, you can place a strainer on top of the soup pot, and strain the tomato puree into the pot. Let the puree simmer, season and thicken for about 4 to 5 minutes. Its color will darken and become deeper.
Stir in the chicken broth and simmer for 5 more minutes. Incorporate the mushrooms along with the chiles. Add the fresh epazote sprigs, if you want, and let it all simmer 5 more minutes. Taste for salt and add more if need be.
Serve very hot. If you wish, add a slice of avocado on top of each bowl of soup. It can be eaten with a side of toasted bolillos or baguettes as well.