Growing up, I have fond memories of lunches around the kitchen table with my mom and brother, each of us with a bowl of soup, a hunk of cheese, and a book in our hands, our heads buried in literary worlds while hot liquid filled our stomachs. My brother and mom preferred "orange" soup and "orange" cheese (Campbell's Tomato Soup and a big slice of cheddar), while I always insisted on "white" soup and "white" cheese (Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup and a big slice of mozzarella). As an adult, I've never lost my love for soup, cheese, or a good book. But Campbell's doesn't cut it any more, and with age I've also developed an intolerance to cream. Creamy soups, chowders, pastas, and soft serve - how I miss thee! But I never give up the fight to find ways to enjoy those old favorites with my new restrictions, a fight I've documented on this blog (such as here and here).
When I got my Blendtec for my recent 30th birthday, I immediately resolved to create a cream of mushroom soup that took me back to those days around the table with my family. I started to experiment immediately. I tried all sorts of ideas that sounded good in my head - white wine, onions, leeks, cream cheese. They were all too harsh or, in the case of the cream cheese, disappeared entirely. It turned out, as it often does, simplicity won the day. The glutamates in soy sauce bump up the umami-rich nucleotides in the mushrooms for full, savory flavor. A little garlic for depth, a touch of cornstarch to mimic the creaminess of the soup of my youth. Voila. That's all it takes.
"Creamy" Mushroom Soup
12 oz. sliced crimini mushrooms
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 cups light, unsweetened almond, soy, or other milk substitute, or even milk, if you prefer
1/2 tsp corn starch
In a preheated skillet sprayed with PAM, saute mushrooms and soy sauce over medium-high until tender, about 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and continue to saute for another 30 seconds - 1 minute. Remove from heat. In blender carafe, add "milk," cornstarch, and all but 2/3 cup of the mushrooms. Blend until entirely smooth and combined. Add the remaining 2/3 cup of mushrooms and pulse a couple times until the slices have broken up into smaller pieces without blending them in entirely. Transfer to a pot on the stove and heat over medium. Simmer for a few minutes until mushrooms are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. Hunk of "white" cheese and tattered paperback optional.