Potato and Wild Mushroom Soup is thick and luscious, like a hearty stew. Typical of Italian country cooking, this soup reflects the region as well as locality, adapting to whatever is convenient. The housewife has potatoes, onions, garlic, and bits of salumi on-hand. From a nail, fresh or semi-dried tomatoes hang in clusters waiting for the plucking to be added to the simmering pot. All that is needed are some fresh mushrooms…so family and friends gather early in the morning for leisurely strolls through the fields and woodlands. These are fun times enjoying nature and each other's company that is about to result in sharing a memorable meal together.
Include a mixture of mushrooms such as oyster, shiitake, hen of the woods, enokitake, morels, lobster, pleurotus, or other edible mushrooms. If available, include porcini as written below, or increase total fresh mushroom mixture to 1 1/2 pounds (680 g). Serve bowls of steaming soup as a main dish with some crusty warm bread or grilled bruschetta.
4 servings. Makes about 10 cups (2.36 liters). Cooking time is 45 to 50 minutes.
Potato and Wild Mushroom Soup:
2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (0.5 ounce or 14 g) unsalted butter
1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 ounces (57 g) speck, schinken, or smoked ham, finely chopped, optional (4 thin slices)
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
1 pound (454 g) mixed fresh mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, cleaned (10 cups or 2.36 liters sliced volume)
8 ounces (227 g) frozen porcini chunks, thawed, or 4 ounces (113 g) whole fresh porcini, cleaned (2 cups or 473 ml volume)
Salt to taste to extract juices
6 cups (1.4 liters) chicken, beef, or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
3 fresh marjoram sprigs or generous pinch dried
3 fresh thyme sprigs or generous pinch dried
1 bay leaf
12 ounces (340 g) ripe red tomatoes, skinned, seeded, chopped (1 1/2 cups or 355 ml volume; 3 medium tomatoes)
8 ounces (227 g) yellow potatoes, use baby potatoes if possible (1 cup or 237 ml volume)
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 118 ml) heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Grated aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago, or Piave cheese to taste sprinkled on top of the soup
Fresh sweet marjoram and/or thyme leaves sprinkled on top of the soup
1. Preparation: Thaw frozen porcini chunks in a colander placed on top of a bowl, saving the precious porcini liquid for the soup. Filter porcini liquid by pouring it through a paper coffee filter or paper towel, or just use the clear part of the liquid, omitting any bits that fall to the bottom of the liquid. Trim fresh mushrooms where needed and scrape off any bits of dirt.
Potatoes: Wash and clean well. Leave skins on or peel. If using baby potatoes, split in half. If using larger potatoes, cut into 1-inch (2.54-cm) cubes. In a pot, bring lightly salted water to a rolling boil. Add the potatoes. Cook for about 4 minutes, until partially cooked, but resistant to a fork or tip of a sharp paring knife. Drain and reserve.
2. Making Potato and Wild Mushroom Soup: In a deep saucepan over low heat, warm the oil and melt the butter. Saute the sliced onion until almost translucent, stirring occasionally for about 4 minutes. Add the speck, schinken, or ham and saute until fragrant, for 1 minute, do not brown. Increase the heat to medium. Add the garlic and assorted fresh mushrooms and saute until hot to the touch, about 4 minutes. (If including, add the thawed porcini along with their liquid.) Lightly season to taste with salt and stir. Partially cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour in the broth and immerse the herbs. Partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and parboiled potatoes, simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. The soup should thicken; adjust the viscosity by pouring in a little more broth if you wish. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream, add freshly grated nutmeg, and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste. Season with salt if needed. Remove the herbs.
3. Garnish: Ladle the hot soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle cheese over the soup, then sprinkle sweet marjoram or thyme leaves on top.
Purchase Frozen Porcini in Italian Specialty Food Stores or from Trader Joe's: https://www.traderjoes.com