Growing up, the only cream of mushroom soup I’d ever had was the salty, milky goop that comes from a can. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized the potential of this soup. The version I make now features an incredible depth, almost a meatiness, that simultaneously does not feel too rich.
Of course, you can make a roux, make a mushroom broth, then incorporate everything together with a splash of cream. But I prefer my own method. The secret is using a base stock made from chicken and pork neck bones. Think of it as a cream of mushroom with a hint of tonkotsu ramen. It makes for an incredibly satisfying winter soup.
The neck bones idea originated in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, where many delicious things came from. When she makes xiao long bao, the soup-filled Shanghainese pork dumplings, she employs a chicken-pork neck bone broth that gives the soup flavor and body.
In a creamy mushroom soup, the broth gives the already savory soup even more “meatiness” and umami flavor. Pork stock on its own is rarely found in the American stock/broth lexicon. I get it: it can be quite strong. That’s why I cook it with chicken bones, which gives the stock a clean and rich taste. Be sure to blanch the neck bones before you start and skim off the scum, which there will be a lot of in the first hour of cooking. The end result, though, is transformational. You’ll find yourself with a silky, creamy white broth, which you’ll thicken with a roux and add mushroom flavor.
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For that last step, I use a novel method: First I sauté the mushrooms, then I puree half the quantity into a blender, which then gets incorporated into the soup. The rest of the mushrooms are stirred in as whole slices.
So forget the condensed canned gunk. This, I say immodestly but also truthfully, is a revelatory soup, and it may even inspire you to rethink your relationship with pork bones.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Note: Meaty pork neck bones can be found at Asian markets, well-stocked grocery stores, and butchers. Once the stock is made, this soup is easy and comes together quickly. The stock can be made in advance and frozen for up to three months.
- 2 (8-oz.) packages of mushrooms, button or cremini, cleaned and sliced
- 6 cups pork neck bone-chicken stock (recipe follows)
- 3 Tbsp. butter, plus extra for sauteing the mushrooms
- 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Minced chives to garnish (optional)
- Salt and white pepper to season
Melt a pat of butter over medium heat in your soup pot. When the butter foams, add your sliced mushrooms and cook until the liquid is released. Season with salt and white pepper and remove from the heat.
Put half the mushrooms in a food processor, reserving the rest in a separate bowl. Process the mushrooms to a thick puree and set aside.
Make the roux: Add 3 tablespoons of butter to the pot and melt until foamy. Add the flour, and whisk to combine thoroughly. Let the roux cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, whisking occasionally to make sure it’s not clumping. It should remain a light golden color.
Gradually add the six cups of stock, whisking constantly to incorporate and smooth out any lumps. Add the mushroom puree, and the sliced mushrooms. Simmer the soup for 10-15 minutes until thickened, whisking occasionally.
Turn off the heat, stir in the 1/4 cup of heavy cream and taste the soup for salt. Serve in bowls, garnishing each portion with a few grinds of white pepper, and the chives, if using.
Pork neck bone-chicken stock
Makes 6-8 cups, depending on the size of your pot
- 1 lb. meaty pork neck bones
- 2 lbs. chicken carcass, either raw or from a leftover rotisserie chicken (avoid chicken with prominent herb flavorings)
- Salt to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the pork bones in the boiling water and blanch for two minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the bones and set aside.
Carefully pour out the water. Rinse the neck bones and refill the pot with cold water.
Add the pork bones and all chicken bones to the water and bring the water to a boil. Allow to boil rapidly, skimming any foam or gray bits that come to the surface. There may be a lot.
Boil for two hours, replenishing the water if the level dips below the bones. Do not be tempted to keep the stock at a low simmer—the body of stock comes from the boiling of the bones. When the stock is cloudy and creamy white in color, it’s ready. Season with salt to taste.
Pour the stock through cheesecloth into a large bowl, to strain out any bone bits and impurities.