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West Town Tavern Wild Mushroom Chowder

20 Dec

This is one of those beautiful soup recipes that can be created 100% from your local farmers market produce, even in the thick of winter.  Onions, potatoes, garlic, mushrooms and herbs are some of the staple items these markets build on in winter (plus a wonderful selection of bread, cheese and jarred goods).  This week I went a little crazy at the River Valley Ranch mushroom stand and purchased about 6 pounds of mushrooms for my Mushroom-Asparagus Strata which I plan to make for our weekly supper club which is themed Breakfast for Dinner this week,  for a green bean casserole I plan to make for Christmas (more to come on these in the next few days), and for this soup.  I had the poor guy at the stand separating Creminis, Shitakes and Oysters into 3 separate bags of various sizes, rummaging through my list while I counted pounds off on my fingers.  Needless to say, Tom crept back into the crowd, ashamed of my torture of the local mushroom man  and my embarrassingly horrible mental math skills.   I was embarrassed not in the least!  It’s winter, I’m carrying my coat and my hat and my scarf, a new bottle of hot sauce, a bag of lettuce…and I could hardly be his most difficult customer of the day…right? I also picked up a new barrel-aged hot sauce from my new favorite local hot sauce supplier CO-OP (who also makes a great Ghost Pepper and Grapefruit hot sauce which I have been unable to stop raving about for weeks).

The aromas emanating from this soup while cooking are reason enough to make it.  It just smells so good.  I was actually a little concerned in the early stages of cooking that the dish would be overwhelmingly rich but it is actually very well-rounded, subtly highlights each of the individual flavors.  Tom’s 8 year-old nephew even finished the bowl.  The addition of Worcestershire and sherry (or red wine) brings out the earthy flavors of the mushrooms and the hot sauce adds a nice, gentle kick (although I doubled the hot sauce).  If you still have not picked up the Soup & Bread Cookbook, get out there and pick it up.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 cups chopped mixed mushrooms

1 1/2 cups carrot, finely diced

2 1/3 cups peeled potato, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed, minced

1/2 cup sherry or dry red wine

5 1/3 cup vegetable broth or water

2 large bay leaves

4 sprigs thyme

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot sauce

Sauté: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until tender and slightly browned (7 minutes).  Add mushrooms, cover and cook on a lower heat until the juices release from the mushrooms (5 minutes).  Uncover, raise the heat to medium and cook until the mushrooms are tender (7-10 minutes).

Reduce: Add carrots, potatoes and garlic and stir.  Add wine or sherry and cook until the vegetables are coated and the sauce has reduced to a glaze (2-3 minutes).

Boil: Add broth or water.  Add springs of thyme and bay leaves, preferably tied so as to easily be removed.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer until all vegetables are tender (20 minutes).  Remove bay leaves and thyme.  Puree one cup of the soup in a food processor or puree slightly with an immersion blender.  Chowder should remain slightly chunky but the puree will add a heartier texture to the broth.

Cream and Season: Add cream and return to boil.  Reduce to medium and boil until slightly reduced (10 minutes).  Add Worcestershire sauce.  Season soup with salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Garnish with croutons and chopped fresh thyme.

Adapted from West Town Tavern Wild Mushroom Chowder by Susan Goss as published in the Soup & Bread Cookbook.

 


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Vanilla Flan with Butterscotch Sauce

22 Feb

  • 3 cups  half-and-half
  • 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup  packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp.  salt
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup  granulated sugar
  • granulated sugar

1. In medium saucepan heat half-and-half and vanilla bean over medium heat until steaming (140 -145 degrees), about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat; cover.  Steep for 15 minutes.

2. Position rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In small bowl combine brown sugar and 1/4 tsp. of the salt, pinching and mashing to eliminate lumps. Spoon mixture into 9-inch deep–ish pie plate. Pack into firm, even layer.

3. Remove bean from half-and-half (let cool if hot to handle); cut bean lengthwise. With point of small knife, scrape seeds from bean and add to half-and-half. Briefly reheat mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, just to steaming.

4. In large bowl whisk eggs, granulated sugar, and remaining 1/4 tsp. salt. Gradually whisk in warm half-and-half until well-combined.

5. Slowly pour egg mixture in pie plate over brown sugar. Some sugar may float up but will settle to bottom eventually.

6. Place pie plate in deep roasting pan. Place pan in oven. Pour boiling water in roasting pan to halfway up sides of pie plate. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

7. Carefully remove pie plate from roasting pan. Cool on wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. To serve, gently run a thin metal spatula or knife around edge of flan. Invert onto serving plate. Makes 8 servings.

Better Homes & Gardens, February 2010

This is one of the tastiest flans I have ever tried, but I am a total sucker for all things butterscotch.  I made this exactly as instructed, using the vanilla extract method since I didn’t have any vanilla beans on hand.  Delicious!

Unfortunately, I do not have any sort of serving platter so the flan was bent a little out of shape by my up-turned dinner plates but it made no difference.  Once the pieces were cut and moved to serving plates, they bounced back to the standard flan shape.  However, I should warn that the butterscotch sauce is very sticky and fluid.   So if you plan to flip the flan onto a plate or small platter, be sure to put something under it because it will ooze everywhere.

That said, this was the first flan I’ve ever made and I thought the process was relatively easy and the product was damn impressive.  Can’t wait to have some more tonight.