A bowl of warm mushroom soup is the perfect antidote to bracing weather and nipping winds during the cold winter months. It's velvety texture and delicate hues are comforting reminders of childhood for many, and serving this simple soup in a glass mug with a Parmesan Foam makes it a sophisticated part of any meal.
"Those foams that you see the chefs use on competitive cooking shows are nothing more than a flavorful liquid with some seasonings simmered inside of it that is whipped until it bubbles," says Brad Barnes, senior director, culinary education at The Culinary Institute of America. "Foams are made by using soy lecithin, an all-natural powder that can be purchased at any health food store. It helps to stabilize the bubbles and keep the foam on top of the soup."
According to classic definitions, a cream soup is based on a bechamel sauce—which is milk thickened with roux—and is finished with heavy cream, making it very rich and high in calories. The CIA's recipe for cream of mushroom soup is made lighter by cutting back on the amount of butter and cream, and then relying on the pureed vegetables to add texture to the soup.
More "exotic" varieties of mushrooms, such as cèpes (porcini), cremini, and oyster, work well in this soup, as do regular white mushrooms. Use a combination or a single variety, depending on what's available, and which ones are your favorites.
Garnishes for cream soups are usually a diced meat or vegetable that reflects the major flavoring ingredient. The CIA's cream of mushroom soup is typically garnished with mushrooms, leeks, and celery. You can also add other ingredients such as chopped sweet red pepper and egg whites to give added color to the soup. Watch our technique video on how to perfectly hard boil eggs > You may also opt to finish the soup with a touch of sherry instead of the lemon juice.
The following recipe is adapted from the CIA's The New Book of Soups (Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2010).