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Recipe of the Week: Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup

by Leigh Sackett

I know I have said in this column before but I will say it again –  summer is my favorite season! The weather allows us to do so much. But a little cold should not stop us from being “out there,” for November is really an exceptional time of year in SW Virginia . . . The leaves crunching under our feet; the sensation of cool air filling our lungs; the color of the falling leaves that give the days an orange glow that appears so other worldly.

In the last week I have been reminded by four friends how amazing this time of year can be – my wonderful reflective friends who wouldn’t dream of allowing the beauty of the day to slip past them. The timing of their comments was perfect and just what I needed, for I have been nursing my sick children back to health, one of whom had pneumonia.

I needed to hear about the other world out there. Because even when our world seems to press down on us there is another world right outside our windows that whispers – it is all going to be ok. It is undoubtedly a gift – that world just outside my routine and “everyday” window. There is no question of that. The question is, if and how I receive that gift.

One friend said – the leaves with all their colors are God reminding us of how much He loves us – a vibrant message of love and hope – just before the bleak winter sets in.

Another friend spoke of the leaves beautifully falling to the ground like the saints who have gone before us.

Yet another friend who lives in Baltimore told me of her noisy city and reminded me how lucky I was to live in Roanoke.

The last but certainly not least of friends told me as she jogged by the river that she had a glimpse into heaven as the sun beautifully sparkled off the cool water.

All of this over the course of a couple of days from people who had simply not forgotten to pay attention. I suppose the Good Lord is trying to tell me something. One of those things being I am blessed to have such friends surrounding me and the other may be a reminder to find the beauty in all of the seasons of life.

A gift of Fall can be found in this wild mushroom soup from the Barefoot Contessa. Enjoy it’s unique beauty and it’s warmth as the days grow chillier!

5 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms

5 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms

5 ounces fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms

1 tablespoon good olive oil

1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 carrot, chopped

1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don’t wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if there are big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 1/4 pound of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

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