There is a surprisingly tasty and enchanting restaurant downtown. It feels like your European grandma’s house–full of lace, fancy cabinets and glassware (though mismatched), and creepy/homey/charming trinkets. Although my grandmother isn’t Russian, I could see elements of her European roots here.
I realized the first time I ate there that I didn’t know what to expect of Russian food. I patted myself on the back for recognizing some of the names, but by no means could I expect what flavors would work together, which pictures matched up with the food, or most important of all–which infused vodka to accompany everything.
To introduce myself, I got a few smaller dishes, and the crowd I was with was down with sharing, so we all got to taste some of each others’. What left the strongest impression on me was the mushroom soup. It felt like hunter-gatherer food. Light and refreshing, but also somehow sustaining and filling. The broth wasn’t thick and the ingredients hadn’t been stewed down, but the flavors somehow worked together marvelously.
Now that I’m on this mushroom kick and the cold weather swooped in for a visit, we tried to make some at home.
Russian Mushroom Soup
- 2 morells (feel free to skip this expensive ingredient that we bought on a whim)
- handful of woodear mushrooms
- handful of oyster mushrooms
- 1 cup or so of porcini mushrooms
- 1/3 cup pearl barley
- 1 carrot
- 1 bunch of fresh dill
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup peas
- 1 med onion
- 2 med potatoes
- 1/2 of a celery root
- 1/2 of a fennel root
- 1 parsnip
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tbs peppercorns
- 1/2 tbs whole allspice
- In a skillet, saute the mushrooms and onions. If you’re using fresh everything, great, if not, rehydrate the dried ones first.
- In a separate pan, cook barley as per package instructions.
- As the mushrooms approach done-ness, bring to a simmer 4 – 6 cups of water with the roughly chopped celery root, fennel, carrots, parsnips and bay leaves in a separate soup pot. After about 10 minutes, add the potatoes as well.
- Once the mushrooms have lost all their moisture and have gotten somewhat mushy, add them to the soup pot. Let simmer for about 10 minutes
- Add nearly the rest of the ingredients : barley, peas, garlic, peppercorns, and allspice. Let simmer for 10 minutes
- Add the parsley and dill.
- Let stew until the flavors have melded beautifully, about 10 more minutes.
I found the whole peppercorns and allspice lent a good flavor to the soup, but I got tired of crunching down on them. Now, I wish I had used a cheesecloth or something to keep them in the soup. I’ll experiment with that and let you know, but if you have any suggestions for me I’d be very appreciative! For added flavor, you could use broth instead of water.