Mushroom Stew

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 45 minutes

I don’t often use flour to thicken soups because there are more flavorful and nutritious ways to give them body (see Giving Soups More Body). But there are exceptions, like the Corn Chowder and this Louisiana-inspired mushroom stew. In both cases the flour is cooked, here in a moderately toasted roux, in which the flour takes on a lovely nuttiness. For extra richness, substitute a cup of cream for a cup of stock.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1/4 cup flour

11/2 pounds shiitake, portobello, cremini, or button mushrooms or a mixture, thickly sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup minced onion

1/4 cup minced celery

1/4 cup minced green bell pepper

2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme, plus (optional) 2 tablespoons leaves for garnish

6 cups Mushroom Stock, vegetable stock, or water

1/4 cup dry sherry for garnish (optional)

01 Put the butter or oil and the flour in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium heat. As the mixture warms, stir constantly with a wooden spoon or a whisk. The roux should bubble along at first, then start to take on a golden color. If it is smoking, or darkening too fast, lower the heat a little. Continue cooking and stirring until the roux turns the color of coffee with cream, 10 to 15 minutes.

02 Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until they are coated in the roux and start to release their liquid. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the onion, celery, bell pepper, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes.

03 Stir in the stock, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the soup bubbles gently, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup has thickened and the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Fish out the sprigs of thyme. Taste, adjust the seasoning, then serve and, if you like, garnish each bowl by pouring a tablespoon of sherry into the middle and sprinkling the top with thyme leaves.

Variation

Mushroom Stew with Green Beans. Trim 1/2 pound green beans and cut them into 1-inch pieces. In Step 3, right after you add the stock, stir in the beans, then proceed with the recipe.