It wasn’t too long ago that the only mushrooms in the supermarket were pure white “button” mushrooms with flavor so mild as to be almost negligible. Now we’re lucky enough to be able to choose from a dizzying array of mushrooms – both fresh and dried.

Mushrooms are a wonderful addition to such meat dishes as a grilled steak or chicken cacciatore, but, because of their deeply savory flavor – particularly the reconstituted dried varieties – they can also hold their own as a meat stand-in.

Wild Mushroom Soup with Dill

This soup has its origins in my husband’s Polish-American family. Add a winter greens salad and some buttered rye toast for an excellent winter supper.

Serves 6 as a main course

1½ ounces dried European mushrooms such as cepes or porcini

8 cups vegetable or beef broth

1 large onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery ribs with leafy tops, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 pound domestic cultivated mushrooms, sliced

½ pound fresh wild mushrooms such as shiitakes, sliced

1/3 cup very small dried pasta, such as squares, orzo, or tiny bows

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cultured sour cream

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, pour 2 cups of boiling water over the dried mushrooms and let soak for about 40 minutes. Lift softened mushrooms out of soaking liquid, rinse under running water to remove any lurking grit, coarsely chop, and set aside. Strain soaking liquid through a coffee filter or double layer of cheesecloth and pour into a large soup pot.

Add broth to the pot, along with 2 cups of water. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the sliced fresh mushrooms and the reconstituted dried mushrooms and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes. (The soup can be made up to 3 days ahead to this point and refrigerated, or frozen. Reheat before proceeding.)

Bring soup to a full boil and add the pasta. Cook uncovered over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the pasta is al dente.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in flour and cook over medium heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the sour cream. Stir in the dill. Whisk a ladleful of hot soup liquid into sour cream mixture; then slowly whisk back into the soup. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until soup is lightly thickened and heated through. (Try not to boil or the soup could curdle.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with remaining dill before serving.

 

Fabulous Four-Mushroom Fettuccine

If you’d like a bit of meat in this sauce, add about 1/3 cup slivered prosciutto or smoked ham. A Bibb lettuce salad with halved grape tomatoes would complete the meal nicely.

Serves 4-6

1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

2 ounces dried wild mushrooms, preferably morels

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 pound mix of three different types of fresh wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini, oyster mushrooms, porcini, or chanterelles, sliced if large, halved or quartered if smaller

1/3 cup chopped shallots

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

½ cup dry white wine

¼ cup dry sherry or Madeira

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

1½ tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon, or 1½ teaspoons dried (see note)

1 pound fresh fettuccine noodles, or dried fettuccine

About 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Add the dried mushrooms, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, and set aside off heat for 20 minutes. Lift mushrooms out of the soaking liquid, rinse under running water to remove any remaining grit, and coarsely chop them. Strain soaking liquid through a coffee filter or cheesecloth-lined sieve.

In a very large skillet, melt the butter. Add fresh mushrooms, shallots, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mushrooms soften and begin to give up their liquid, about 6 minutes. Add wine and sherry, bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 minutes to reduce liquid by about one-third. Add cream, tarragon, chopped reconstituted mushrooms, and strained mushroom soaking liquid. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes until lightly thickened. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, 3 to 5 minutes for fresh, about 10 minutes for dried. Drain into a colander. Serve pasta with the sauce spooned over and pass cheese at the table.

Note: If using dried tarragon, add it when you saute the mushrooms.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at: facebook.com/brookedojny