Sunday, March 5, 2017

Recipe of the Month: Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup

On the first day of March, Brian was searching for something to make for dinner with the ingredients we had on hand, which included a pound of mushrooms, several pounds of potatoes, and some leeks. So he punched those ingredients into Google and came upon a couple of recipes for a dish called Russian Mushroom and Potato Soup. All the ingredients in it were things we liked, so it seemed like a safe bet—and a good chance to get our Recipe of the Month in early.

Brian made a couple of minor changes to the recipe as written. First, it was supposed to make 12 servings, which was way too much for the two of us, even with the soup being served as a main dish rather than a first course. So he cut all the ingredients down by 25 percent, which still made a very generous potful.

Second, it called for half-and-half, which we didn't have, so he whipped up a quick substitute using powdered milk. We already knew that a mixture of equal parts powdered milk and water could be used in place of cream, so he just took about a cup of the skim milk we already had and dumped in maybe half a cup of powder. If it made any difference in the taste of the soup, it wasn't noticeable to us.

The finished result, I have to say, didn't look anything like the picture on the AllRecipes website. Instead of a light, golden soup with big, distinct chunks of potato and carrot floating in it, it came out as more of a thick, brown liquid full of miscellaneous veggie bits. But it tasted better than it looked—rich and savory, with the meatiness of the mushrooms and the pungency of the leeks giving it plenty of body. And with the potatoes, shrooms, and carrots crowded together in every bowl, it was plenty satisfying enough for a main course.

The one flavor that struck a slightly discordant note for me was the dill. I'm used to thinking of this as a springtime herb, to be enjoyed in light dishes like salads or pasta. In a hot, hearty soup like this, it tasted out of place. It wasn't bad, exactly; it just didn't seem like quite the right complement for the other flavors. Brian thought maybe thyme would work better, while I was leaning toward rosemary.

However, Brian revised his opinion about the dill when eating the leftovers for lunch a few days later. To his taste buds, it seemed that the dill blended much more smoothly with the rest of the soup after it had been sitting for a while to let the flavors mingle. So maybe the ideal solution for this soup is to cook it the day before you serve it, so the dill can blend in properly. Or maybe it would be better to try it with thyme and see if it tastes better on day one.

To be honest, though, I'm not sure whether we'll want to go to the trouble of finding out. We already have a couple of good soup recipes that use mushrooms, and another good one made with potatoes and leeks, so we don't especially need one that puts all three of those ingredients in the same pot. If this soup were vastly superior to those others, it would deserve a spot in our repertoire, but since I didn't actually like it quite as much, I see no reason for it to displace either of them. So we'll probably only make it again if we happen to find ourselves with potatoes, leeks, and shrooms that all need to be used promptly—and for some reason we don't want to make a veggie pot pie.
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