This was my favorite soup growing up. It was very brothy and meaty, despite the fact that it was often made with vegetable stock. Porcini mushrooms, prized in Russian cooking for their immense flavor, take center stage here.
I’ve taken my family recipe and swapped out some onions for shallots’ more mellow taste. I added some thyme to highlight the mushroom flavor even further and, finally, to give this already complex-tasting soup even more depth, I cooked some sherry into the mushrooms, letting the alcohol evaporate before adding other soup ingredients. It was my best version yet, one that I will share with my family and friends and be making for years to come. After some tweaks, my favorite soup is even better than before.
My mushroom-soup yen of the season is not satisfied until this soup makes its round. Maybe we will re-create the magic for Hanukkah, but if Christmas is your holiday this month, this soup is great as a first course for any holiday meal.
Porcini Barley Soup With Sherry
1 cup (1 ounce) dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 small shallots, finely chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves separated from stem
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup sherry
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup pearled barley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
3/4 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
Sour cream, for serving
1. In a medium bowl, pour 2 cups boiling water over the mushrooms and allow to infuse 1 hour. Strain over a sieve, pressing out solids; reserve the liquid.
2. In a large stockpot, over medium heat, melt the 2 tablespoons butter and warm the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sweat the onion, shallots and thyme for 10 minutes until softened and light golden. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
3. Add 2 tablespoons butter and the onions to the pot, and cook 5 minutes. Add sherry and cook, stirring, 3 minutes, until mostly evaporated. Add the mushroom-infused liquid, chicken stock, barley, salt and pepper. Cover, and simmer on low heat 1 hour.
4. Add the potatoes, raise the heat to medium, and cook 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender. Serve as-is, or with a dollop of sour cream, if you like.
Olga Massov, is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. In her past life, she spent a decade working in finance, but now gets to assist the likes of Melissa Clark and Andrew Scrivani. Olga writes a bi-weekly column for the Cooking Channel blog, and has been featured by Saveur.com, BonAppetit.com, and GourmetLive, among others. Her other work can be found on www.sassyradish.com and her twitter handle is @sassyradish.
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