There is a wonderful little wine bistro in Dallas called The Grape. It has been in business since the 1970s and it is famous for its mushroom soup. So, I always think of Kathy McDaniel and Charlotte Parker, my dear friends and the original owners of The Grape, whenever I make mushroom soup.
My recipe combines a rich, classic mushroom soup with the glorious, bubbling cheese topping for a French onion soup. With a combination like this, it’s hard to go wrong.
Note: Depending on your preference, you may substitute tarragon for the thyme.
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 pound cremini mushrooms
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup coarsely chopped shallots
4 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
9 sprigs fresh thyme, divided use
1 to 2 tablespoons Dry Marsala, optional
1 clove garlic
1 cups (4 ounces) shredded Gruyere
Place the dried mushrooms in a small glass or ceramic bowl and cover with cold water. Quickly swish the mushrooms around in the water to remove any debris and then lift them out of the water. Discard the washing water and replace the mushrooms in the small bowl. Cover them with 1 cup hot water and leave to plump for at least 30 minutes.
Trim the stems and brush the cremini mushrooms to remove any debris. Slice the mushrooms into ¼” slices. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the shallots. Sauté until soft, but not browned. Add the mushrooms, quickly stir to coat them with the melted butter, and sauté, stirring constantly, until soft and limp. The skillet will be dry at first and then as the mushrooms cook they will begin to realease their juices. Lift the dried mushrooms out of their soaking water, chop them coarsely, and add to the sautéed mushrooms. Strain the soaking water through a fine mesh sieve or several thicknesses of cheese cloth into the mushrooms. Continue to cook in the skillet for a few minutes to loose the cooked bits of mushroom that may have adhered to the skillet.
Transfer the mushrooms from the skillet to a large saucepan. Crush the bay leaves and 3 thyme sprigs with your hand and then wrap them in cheesecloth and secure the pouch with kitchen string. Pour the chicken broth over the mushroms, add the herb pouch, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the marsala and continue cooking uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes. (If you’d like a substitute for marsala, try this.)
Remove the herb pouch. If you have made the soup ahead of time, return the soup to a boil. Ladle the soup into small individual-serving-sized, oven-proof bowls.
Preheat the broiler to high and position the oven rack 3 inches beneath the heat source.
Slice the baguette into ¼” thick slices and place on a baking sheet. Transfer the bread to the oven and toast the bread on both sides. Remove the bread from the oven and rub each piece of toast lightly with the garlic clove.
Position the oven rack 6 inches beneath the heat source.
Place the slices of toasted bread on top of the soup and sprinkle the shredded Gruyere over the bread. Transfer the soup to the oven and broil until the cheese on top is bubbly and browned.
To serve, garnish with the remaining sprigs of fresh thyme.
Serves 6 as a first course. Serves 4 as a main course.
For another delicious, cheesy recipe, try Paula’s Chile Con Queso.