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Cream of Mushroom Soup with Parmesan Foam

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).

 

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Parmesan Foam

Ingredients

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Makes 8 Servings

  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • 8 cups chopped mushrooms (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 1/4 cups thinly sliced leek (white part only)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, heated
  • Fresh lemon juice, as needed
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground white pepper, as needed

Optional Garnishes:

  • 1/4 cup small diced peeled red pepper, sautéed until tender
  • 1/4 cup chopped hard-boiled egg whites
  • 1/4 cup leeks sautéed until tender
  • 1/4 cup celery sautéed until tender
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms sautéed until tender
  • Parmesan Foam

Parmesan Foam

Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy lecithin
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth (you may substitute mushroom broth)

Directions

Cream of Mushroom Soup

  1. Melt 6 tablespoons of the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms, celery, and leek. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the broth gradually. Add the thyme sprig, bring to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a skillet. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.
  5. Remove and discard the thyme. Puree the soup, then strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Return the soup to the soup pot and place over low heat. Add the heavy cream and season to taste with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Heat the soup, but do not boil.
  6. Serve in heated bowls, garnished with the reserved cooked mushrooms.

Parmesan Foam

  1. Combine the milk and soy lecithin in a saucepan; scald the milk. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese, garlic, and pepper. Steep this mixture at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Strain the milk and discard the cheese and seasonings.
  3. Pour liquid into a 1-quart measuring cup and froth with an emersion blender until foam develops.
  4. Spoon foam on top of soup.

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