Farmers' Market Favorite
Cream of Mushroom Soup

One of the neatest ways I collaborate with Texas Farmers' Markets, you'll frequently find me chatting up market shoppers and sharing ways to prepare the seasonal bounty offered by vendors and farmers. Chefs and home cooks, residents and out-of-towners, vegans and carnivores, beginners and seasoned gourmands, food-lovers of all ages, from the young Market Sprout chef "helpers", to the sweet little lady who learned to cook in France in the 50's-- the variety of market shoppers are as bright and beautiful as the farmers' tables. We're all there--vendors, farmers, shoppers, chefs-- because we love healthy, wholesome food, and our collective enthusiasm is infectious! I suspect I learn more than I teach on these occasions.

In the year that I've been a member of the TFM family, I've forged some lovely friendships over the shared commitment to eating well, and supporting our community in the larger sense of the city, Austin, that I am lucky enough to call home, and the smaller sense of the local family farmer, grower, producer who serves us. Pat is one of those friends, a fellow market shopper and community supporter. She's a local foods enthusiast and loyal farmers' market patron. Our community is lucky to have friends like Pat.

Pat brought her husband, Todd, to the market last weekend, for the mushroom-themed event, A Fungus Among Us-- an opportunity for food-lovers of all ages to learn about, and taste, a variety of mushrooms, and ideas for preparation. They were patient, circling around a few times during the chef demonstration, and nibbling on mushroom tamales, pan-roasted mushrooms, and stuffed portabellas as they waited for that simmering pot of something to finish doing whatever had to be done to be DONE. Pat's the kind of supportive friend who will ask questions she knows the answer to, just to encourage engagement from the crowd. She's a gem.

After the demo, and with Pat and Todd's arms filled with the FIVE POUNDS of Kitchen Pride Mushrooms she purchased, we quickly traded the recipe. They headed to the grocery for a few small details, and then back to their home. I crossed my fingers that it would turn out well. I was delighted to see, evidenced by social media posts, that Todd prepared the soup that they both scarfed down with satisfaction. It's always a great feeling to see your recipes reproduced, and enjoyed. Let me take this opportunity to thank Pat and Todd for their enthusiasm and support. Shoppers, followers, readers, fans, friends-- they keep the producers, the instructors, the food cheerleaders going strong, and we appreciate you!

This silky, luxurious cream soup is filling, and rich. It can be enjoyed as a main course, with perhaps nothing more than a fresh-baked baguette (from the market!), and a salad of mixed greens with a simple vinaigrette. I'm eating light(er) these days, so I make the salad the entree, and enjoy a smaller cup to begin my meal. It's glorious in it's simplicity, both to eat, and to prepare. First, collect and prep your ingredients.

For approximately 4 main courses, and up to 8 beginning soup courses, gather

4 shallots, chopped
2T, or more, good quality neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed oil
4-6 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced (we used Kitchen Pride button, crimini, shitake, and portabella mushrooms. See tips, above.)
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 qt half and half (we used fat-free)
1 qt whole milk
1 bunch flatleaf parsley, chopped and stems removed
1 bunch scallions, sliced, green tops only
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

*See tips, above, for additional ingredient notes

Begin with a sizzling hot skillet. (I LOVE cast iron. Nothing fancy necessary for me. We use them at the market for demos, as well.) Cover the pan with the oil in a thin layer (you can add more oil as mushrooms cook, if necessary, but if there is too much oil, or the temperature is too low, the mushrooms will soak up added oil that you won't want in your soup.). Pan fry shallots until just transparent. Remove. Add mushrooms, one cup at a time, to skillet. Do not crowd the pan, as they will steam instead of sear. We are going for a little crisp on the edges. Toss in a few sprigs of thyme to saute along with the mushrooms.

Layer the cooking times of the mushrooms, by adding cupfuls in 2-3 minute increments. This will allow for varying textures-- some cooked well, some cooked al dente, and everything in between. If the pan becomes too crowded, remove and reserve that batch and begin another in the pan.

Moving to a heavy saucepot or dutch oven to complete the soup, transfer cooked mushrooms, shallots, and thyme to soup pot over medium heat. Add remaining thyme, chopped parsley and sliced scallions. (I use whole thyme sprigs, and fish them out before serving.) Slowly stir in half and half and milk. Bring to a low simmer, cover, and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. Do NOT allow to boil. You'll have a hot mess of separated half and half on your hands. Just a simmer. Better to go lower and longer, so that mushrooms and seasoning fully infuse the soup, rather than hotter and faster, here.

Cream or milk-based soups require a little more salt than one might expect. Start with a teaspoon, but certainly don't be shy-- taste as you go, and add as much as you need.  Season, additionally, with freshly-ground black pepper, to taste. I love the stuff in cream soups, so I can be a little heavy-handed. Go with what you like. Fish out those thyme stems, and serve warm.

Follow the action at the Texas Farmers' Markets, including the Cedar Park Farmers' Market, and the Mueller Farmers' Market, on their Facebook pages, and stay tuned for the newest market in Austin, opening soon at the Domain!

I'm just proud as punch to have my recipe featured by Austin American Statesman. You can find that article here, on Relish Austin, the food blog for Austin360, by AAS's Addie Broyles.. Follow along with the #austin360cooks hashtag on Instagram, where you'll find foodies across the city sharing their home cooked meals. Also find me posting as maggiecperkins, and specifically for this blog with the hashtag #NotesfromMaggiesFarm .

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