When I friend requested that I come up with a recipe for the soup she loved at one of her favorite restaurants, I was all, “Heck yeah!” I love a good challenge, don’t you? The real challenge, however, is that this restaurant is in Arizona, where she lives, and I’m, well… in Illinois. Illinois is in italics there to signify my annoyance that I live here in the cold, while she lives in the beautiful dry heat of the desert. Illinois doesn’t get annoyed italics in the summer, but in February, it certainly does.
Illinois does, at the moment, have the benefit of being in the middle of soup season, however, which I don’t think Arizona is. Does Arizona have a soup season? (These are the questions that keep me up at night.) How do you copycat something you’ve never eaten? My first tactic was just to e-mail the restaurant and ask for the recipe, which I know is cheating, but I had to at least try. Well, they don’t give out their recipes, but the person answering e-mails was very sweet and helpful and gave me some tips, even though they probably wondered why this crazy lady was asking for a recipe for soup she’s never even tried. It seemed straightforward enough, so armed with enthusiasm and just enough knowledge of this soup to make me dangerous, I embarked on this soup challenge.
Ok, well embarked might be a little strong, since this soup only really took about half an hour to make, from start to finish, but you get the idea. And let me tell you, for something so quick and relatively simple, this soup was out of this world. It’s not a flamboyant soup or anything (not like those rowdy chowders!), but it is so flavorful, creamy, and interesting that it’s bound to become a favorite in our house. The earthy mushrooms and slight minerality from the spinach played so nicely against the richness of the cream and walnuts. And why have I never had soup with nuts in it before? It kind of just works in a way I didn’t see coming. For a soup that’s not necessarily thick or chunky, this soup was just so… satisfying. We ate it for dinner with just some bread and a salad and we were all feeling pretty good about it. Ok, we felt really good about it.
Now, here’s the disclaimer: I have no flippin’ clue if this soup tastes anything like the soup my friend is talking about from the restaurant. None. I mean, it seems like it’s probably about right, but in reality, I have no way of knowing, unless I take an impromptu trip to the southwest. Hey, come to think of it… that might not be a bad idea. Anything to get out of Illinois in February, am I right?!
inspired by a soup I've never actually tried at Cornish Pasty Co. Big thanks to them for being so accommodating and giving me a few hints on this one. :)
- 12 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup sherry (or white wine)
- 1/4 cup flour
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 2/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 cups baby spinach
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, stir well, and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are nicely browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the sherry, stirring until the mushrooms are dry again. Add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring as you go. Stir in the salt, pepper, and walnuts and turn the heat down to low so that the soup is at a low simmer. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
Add the cream, and let simmer for a few minutes until the soup begins to thicken. Then add the spinach and cook until just wilted, only a minute or two. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until mostly smooth with some chunks still intact. (If you don't have an immersion blender, ladle half of the soup into a blender, puree well, and pour back into the pot.) Serve immediately.