If Julia Child were alive today, she would have celebrated her 100th birthday on August 15th this year. A few years ago, my mom gave me Julia’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” cookbook as a gift.
My first glance through the cookbook was daunting, to say the least. Scary ingredients. Scary techniques. Needless to say, I was intimidated by the book and it became nothing more than a conversation piece on my cookbook shelf for a number of years. I think even my mom recognized that the book would be a challenge and left me this “meant to be funny” inscription on the cover page:
When Julia’s birthday came up this year, I felt inspired to give the book another look and another shot. While I still find many of the recipes a little scary, I chose a recipe that I felt would be manageable and comforting. Rich and delicious Cream of Mushroom soup (or as Julia would say, “Potage Velouté aux Champignons.”)
I slightly adapted the recipe, because I apparently blacked out at the grocery store and bought already sliced mushrooms instead of whole, white, button mushrooms. I feel that the result was still pretty impressive, however.
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring 6 cups of chicken stock to simmer.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cook minced onions in 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat until they are tender, but not browned – about 8 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of flour and stir over medium heat for 3 minutes (still try not to let it brown).
Off the heat, whisk the boiling stock into the onion/flour mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
At this point, Julia’s recipe tells you to add 3/4 to a pound of chopped stems from white mushrooms. As previously mentioned, I inadvertently bought pre-sliced white button mushrooms, so I just used some of these at this point. I think as long as you are adding mushrooms to the stock, you will get the desired mushroom flavor in your soup base.
Anyways, stir in the chopped mushroom stems (or sliced mushrooms, like me) and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or more, skimming the top of the soup occasionally.
Strain the soup, pressing the juices out of the mushroom stems. Discard the mushroom stems and return soup to the pan.
In a separate saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter until foaming. Toss in the sliced mushroom caps, 1/4 tsp salt, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes.
Pour the mushrooms and their cooking juices into the strained soup base – simmer for 10 more minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, beat 2 egg yolks and whipping cream together. Beat in hot soup by spoonfuls until about a cup has been added (you are trying to temper the eggs to the hot soup so they don’t scramble!) Gradually stir in the rest of the soup and adjust the seasoning.
Return the soup to the ban and stir over moderate heat for about a minute or two, but do not let the soup come near the simmer.
Off the heat, stir in 1 to 3 tablespoons of softened butter (by the tablespoon). Pour the soup into individual cups and garnish with minced chervil or parsley.
Part of Julia’s philosophy was that home cooks could master fancy French cooking. While this recipe certainly tastes fancy and rich, I was happily surprised that I could do it, and so can you!
- 1/4 cup minced onions
- 3 tablespoons of flour
- 6 to 8 tablespoons of butter
- 6 cups chicken stock
- Salt and Pepper
- 3/4 to 1 lb of white button mushrooms
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup of whipping cream
Serves 6 to 8 people
Recipe Adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking