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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Elizabeth David's Mushroom Soup: For the Frugal, Lazy, Even the Post-Dental

I shall have more to say at a later date about the political and ethical crisis attendant upon my dental visit. Right now, I would like to share a recipe for those who must eat "soft food." Oh, that's not you? How about for the lazy? How about for the frugal? How about for the SUPER frugal who pick up all the "reduced for quick sale" mushrooms at the grocery?

I am generally in at least two of the above categories. When the mushrooms are reduced to 79 cents a pound, I am in three. And, this past week, I have been in all four.

My little Penguin paperback of Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking was bought at a wonderful Bloomington Indiana institution: the used bookstore Caveat Emptor. A search suggests that it is still there, presided over by some of the same motley crew that founded it, lo these many years ago. No doubt I acquired the book via trade-in credit. I discovered, way back then, that you could buy books at thrift stores and trade them for credit, magically transforming books that you spent perhaps a dime for into nice poetry books published by Oxford University Press or literary criticism left by some disgruntled grad school dropout or cookbooks! How to live without cash is a lesson from those days that has stayed with me, in addition to my critical reading and writing skills.

Since, as noted above, I am lazy, I am presenting this not as David wrote it, but as a lazy and error-prone typist (moi) would:

Saute 3/4 lb. sliced mushrooms in butter. Add some sliced garlic and salt, pepper, nutmeg. (David adds parsley, but I seldom have any.)

Add in some dried bread. (This is the thickener! So much easier than the usual roux. I always have dried country bread. This is a good time to use all the "artisan" bread ends you may have. David says to soak the bread in some stock and then squeeze it out. Not going to happen in my kitchen. But go right ahead.) Stir till all amalgamates. (I just move immediately to the next step.)

Add about 1 1/2 pints of stock. (Good idea! Sometimes, I don't have stock. So I've done this with good old water, but then I add extra garlic.)

When all seems done, you're supposed to put this through several thicknesses of sieve several times or put into a blender. Then you're supposed to return to rinsed out saucepan.

What I do: use my trusty stick blender and blend right in the pot.

Stir in a little cream. I seldom have this, so I stir in little milk, plus some butter. I figure that will turn into cream.

I've eaten so much of this in the last few days that I need a long vacation from it. But it was good for the first three days, along with my other staple: mashed potatoes.

What do you eat post-dental work?


Duchesse said...

Ethics and politics at the dentists? Am curious. (But I am all for saving the patient, not the tooth.)

Good recipe, thanks! That breadcrumb trick is genius and works for many soups. I like your shortcuts too. Can you believe I saw lobster mushcrooms at a fancy grocery store here for nearly $30 a pound?

Shelley said...

Over here where dentists are just barely covered by the NHS (though educated for free by the taxpayer) I can think of lots of ethics and politics related to dentistry.

Great recipe, mainly for the idea of water+garlic in place of stock (I usually buy buillion cubes) and milk+butter in place of cream. Also old bread as a thickener. I thought I knew how to cook but these are all new ideas for me. Can't wait to try them!

Love Elizbeth David's books. Read her biography once (not auto-I generally avoid those); it was a great read and I recommend it.

Frugal Scholar said...

@D and S--This had to do with pamphlets on display re Health Care Reform. I don't have dental insurance, btw. Will write about this episode at a later date.

I really should use the bread thickener in other soups. I LOVE David and will be on the lookout for the biography.

Sydney Savage said...

By all means make this soup. But having to eat soft foods is insufficient reason. Being poor is insufficient reason and so is being lazy.

This soup should be made and eaten because it is actually one of the world's best and most delicious recipes.

Most of the recipes I cook from Elizabeth David's excellent books are not particularly expensive to prepare, by the way.

And I do recommend cream and I also recommend good stale sourdough as being essential

Frugal Scholar said...

@SS--i totally agree! Luckily, Mr FS bakes the perfect bread to use as a thickener.