Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lunch Week 33: Leek & Mushroom Soup and Lobster Bisque

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Leek & Mushroom Soup and Lobster Bisque

I really felt like having soup this week but I didn't have enough homemade stock to make just one. So I decided to suck it up and make 2 different kinds. It turned out to be really easy and delicious.

One tip about soups. If you have a really rich broth or stock to start with, then you soup will be amazing. Even if a recipe says add water, add chicken stock instead. It'll be awesome! Trust me.

Anyway, the leek and mushrooms soup first. I used a nice variety of portabello, baby bellas, and oyster mushrooms. I was also going to use shitake mushrooms but they were really expensive and not very fresh looking. Clean and chopped up into large pieces. They'll shrink when you cook them.

Oh, another tip. I wash my mushrooms. I know lots of people say to clean with a damp cloth. I did that once. It took me an hour just to clean them. I don't have time for that. Besides, if Jacque Pepin says I can wash them as long as I use them right away, then I will wash them.
And now the leeks. They're really dirty and gritty. To clean them properly, you need to slice them up into rings or half rings, separate them and soak in cold water. The dirt will slowly pick up moisture and sink to the bottom of the bowl. When you drain the leeks, carefully lift them up without disturbing the water and dirt on  the bottom.
This soup also called for some thyme which I liberally picked.

Quick tip: if you run your fingers against the grain of the thyme stick, the leave will come off really easily. No need to individually pick them off.
So now the cooking begins. Add some butter to the bottom of your pot and cook the mushrooms until they release their liquid and become soft. Scoop out and leave for later.
In the same pot, add more butter and cook the leeks until they've softened. Then add the mushrooms back in and your stock. I had mushroom stock so I used that. But feel free to use chicken stock here. Let cook and simmer for about 30 minutes until the flavors have melted together. Salt and pepper to taste.
The result is something really deeply flavored and earthy. The leeks melted into the soup a bit and sweetened it up. The mushroom stock plus the actual mushrooms made this into a shroom extravaganza!
I don't have much instructions on the lobster bisque because I did the longest and most difficult part a long time ago. Yes, the lobster stock. I took leftover shells, legs, and heads and boiled it down slowly with water and vegetables. The result is a super rich flavored broth. Most recipes call for fish stock or clam juice for lobster stock. No sir. You want lobster stock. You won't taste a richer flavored lobster bisque. So basically, I reheated the stock, added tomato paste, sherry, and then cream. I seasoned to taste but it didn't need much salt because lobster stock is naturally salty being a sea creature and all.
Tear up some crusty bread and throw it into the soup when hot and it's glorious. This bisque was so incredibly good. I couldn't stop tasting it. The stock really did very well. The sherry is a must. And the cream...well heavy cream is very nice. Add as much or as little as you please. I loved this soup. Truly something decadent and nice treat.
Here are some recipes that I loosely based my soups courtesy of

Mushroom and Leek Soup with Thyme Cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (10 1/2 cups)
3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Using electric mixer, beat cream just until soft peaks form. Fold in 2 teaspoons thyme. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to blend flavors. (Thyme cream can be made up to 1 day ahead. If cream separates, whisk until soft peaks re-form. ) Remove from refrigerator 1 hour before serving to come to room temperature.

In 4-quart stock pot over moderately high heat, heat 2 tablespoons butter until hot but not smoking. Working in 2 batches (add 2 more tablespoons butter before second batch), cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

In same stock pot over moderate heat, heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in leeks, cover, and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add cooked mushrooms, sprinkle with flour, and stir until flour is evenly distributed. Stir in stock, then salt, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Bring to boil, stirring often, then reduce heat to low, set lid ajar, and simmer 20 minutes. (Soup can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, covered. Reheat before serving.)

Divide soup among 8 bowls and top each portion with dollop of thyme cream. Serve immediately.

Test-Kitchen Tip:
Leeks can be gritty and they need to be washed well before cooking. Chop the white and pale green parts only (the dark green top is bitter and should be discarded), and place them in a bowl of cold water. Stir them briskly to loosen dirt, then let them stand for a few minutes so the grit can sink to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the leeks out of the water, leaving the grit behind, and transfer them to a sieve to drain.

November 2007
Rick Rodgers

Lobster Bisque
2 1-pound live lobsters
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 large celery stalk, sliced
1 small carrot, sliced
1 garlic head, cut in half crosswise
1 tomato, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
8 whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup dry Sherry
4 cups fish stock or bottled clam juice

1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add lobsters head first and boil until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Using tongs, transfer lobsters to large bowl. Reserve 2 cups cooking liquid. Cool lobsters.

Working over large bowl to catch juices, cut off lobster tails and claws. Crack tail and claw shells and remove lobster meat. Coarsely chop lobster meat; cover and chill. Coarsely chop lobster shells and bodies; transfer to medium bowl. Reserve juices from lobster in large bowl.

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Add lobster shells and bodies and sauté until shells begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add onion and next 8 ingredients. Mix in brandy and Sherry. Boil until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add fish stock, reserved 2 cups lobster cooking liquid and lobster juices. Simmer 1 hour.

Strain soup through sieve set over large saucepan, pressing firmly on solids. Whisk tomato paste into soup. Simmer until soup is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Add cream to soup and simmer 5 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water. Add to soup and boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Mix lobster meat into soup and stir to heat through. Ladle soup into bowls.

Bon Appétit
June 1997


  1. when you said you were having lobster bisque for lunch i had no idea you MADE it yourself. Impressive!

  2. Ha, nice! BTW, about the mushrooms. Alton Brown did an experiment a long time ago where he washed the mushrooms three different ways, and weighed them before and after to see how much water they actually pick up if you soak them or wash under running water. The difference was negligible - like .01 gram or whatever unit of measurement for water - so I have never done this "wipe with a cloth" BS either.

    Soups look great :)

  3. @FF: Thanks for the mushroom advice!


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