Dried porcini mushrooms are a beautiful thing. They have a meaty flavor, and a deep umami taste. Boil dried porcinis in water, and you have yourself the best vegetarian substitute for beef broth. I always rehydrate extra porcinis, and freeze the stock in ice cube trays. This way I always have a flavorful stock on hand for soups.
Try to buy local porcini mushrooms if you can; they will be cheaper than the imported ones. And remember, fresh porcinis are not the same as the dried ones. Dried porcini mushrooms have a lovely, depth of taste that the fresh ones simply don’t have.
Because dried mushrooms vary in size, its best to weigh them (cup measurements wont work). In case you are in the market for a great kitchen scale, Escali scales are great.
I like to soak and cook my own beans. It’s healthier, cheaper and tastier. Soak beans overnight in water, and drain. Then cover them with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid, and let the beans simmer till done – about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Then drain. I know this sounds like a long time, but you don’t have to baby sit the beans, they pretty much take care of themselves. You can cook any kind of bean this way and save it in the fridge for several days to use in soups, salads, chili etc.
White beans like cannellini or navy are so silky and creamy when cooked, you really dont need to add any milk or cream to this. So this white bean and porcini soup is vegan. However, if you want to make this soup richer and creamier, just add 1/4 cup heavy cream right at the end.
White Bean and Porcini Mushroom Soup Recipe
serves about 4
1 cup dried white beans (cannellini or navy beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
¼ cup dry white wine, optional
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
Soak the dried white beans overnight in water. Then drain them.
In a medium sauce pan, heat the olive oil, and cook the onions on low heat till they are translucent. Don’t let the onions brown. Then add the garlic, rosemary, cracked black pepper, and salt. Cook 30 seconds, or till the garlic is fragrant. Don’t let the garlic brown.
Pour in white wine if using, increase heat to medium-high and let the wine bubble away, till most of it evaporates.
Then add the beans, and 4 cups of water. Bring the soup to a rolling boil on high heat. Then reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan with a lid, and let the soup simmer till the beans are very soft – about 1 to 1.5 hour.
While the beans are cooking, rehydrate the mushrooms.
Boil 3 cup water in a medium saucepan. When the water boils, add the dried porcinis to the water. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Cover the pan, and let it simmer gently for about 20 minutes or till the mushrooms are rehydrated and soft. The mushrooms are done when you prick them with a fork, and they feel soft. If the mushrooms feel leathery, tough or hard, they need to cook more.
Depending on the size of the mushrooms, this may take more or less time, so check on the mushrooms periodically.
Turn off heat, and let the mushrooms sit in the stock for about 10 minutes. This will allow the sandy sediments to settle in the bottom of the pan. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the rehydrated porcinis from the liquid. Using a wooden spoon, press on the mushrooms to squeeze out some of the water back into the pan. Reserve the mushrooms.
When the sediment has settled to the bottom of the pan, pour the mushroom cooking liquid into a measuring cup. Do not use the sediment at the bottom. Measure out 2 cups of mushroom stock. Reserve this stock.
When the beans are cooked, add the rehydrated mushrooms, and the mushroom stock and boil for 1 more minute. Turn off heat. If you want a richer soup, add ¼ cup of heavy cream at this point.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup till it is smooth. You can also use a blender or food processor to puree the soup.
Remember to vent the lid a little when blending hot liquids.
Garnish with chopped rosemary, and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve soup with crusty bread.