This soup was phenomenal. We had soup on the menu for this week, and when Jason told me what he wanted to do, I was just kind of like, "Oh, that sounds... pretty good, I guess." I like mushrooms okay, but I've had my share of lousy mushroom experiences so I wasn't super pumped about it or anything. I also like quinoa, (that's pronounced keen-wah, by the way) but I wasn't sure how excited I was to have it in a soup. My reservations couldn't have been more misplaced, this might have been the best soup my husband has ever made for me.
The soup began a few days ago when Jason made a large batch of chicken stock. It simmered for a few hours and the onions on top began to caramelize, lending a deep golden hue. For this soup, I would HIGHLY recommend starting with your own stock rather than store-bought. Just get a large pot, roughly chop 3 large stalks of celery, 3 large carrots, 3 medium yellow onions, smash some garlic, and throw it in the pot on medium-high heat for a few minutes and let the vegetables sweat for a moment or two. Then add a chicken carcass (or if you don't feel like, or know how to hack up a whole chicken, get some cow bones from the meat dept. at your grocery store and use those. Unroasted beef bones make a "white stock" that tastes a lot like chicken stock.) and cold water. Bring to a boil and immediately turn the heat down, simmering at a low temperature for 4-5 hours, skimming frequently. Jason's culinary school textbooks say to blanch the carcass first by covering it with cold water, bringing it to a boil, and then pouring out that water, but we've never had any problems doing it our way, so whatever you'd like, I guess.
Mushroom Quinoa Stew:
About 8 cups of chicken stock
A heaping plateful of mushrooms, chopped into bite-sized hunks. (we used shiitake, portabella, and criminis)
1 yellow onion, cut in half then slivered
a few cloves of garlic, finely minced
Juice of half a lemon
Brown mustard (something fancy, if you've got it. Stone ground whatever.)
Large handful of fresh spinach
1 cup of quinoa (Jason suggested subbing barley if you can't find quinoa, but barley will thicken your soup a LOT, so use it sparingly, like half a cup or less for the whole pot, I'm guessing.)
Hunk of butter
In a large stock pot, saute onions & garlic with chopped mushrooms. Squeeze in juice of half a lemon, a generous squirt of brown mustard, and throw in a chunk of butter. Stir frequently while sauteing, and when everything begins to cook down and soften, add 6 cups of chicken stock, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
In another pot (or you can just use a rice cooker, like we did) cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of chicken stock. Keep to the side until the end.
To the soup pot, add 2 whole chicken legs (thigh & drumstick, bone-in, skin removed.) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, skimming the soup every so often. When meat is cooked, remove chicken legs, shred meat, and return to pot.
Add cooked quinoa, a handful of fresh spinach, and more mustard and lemon juice (and zest, if you'd like) to taste.
You guys, I know it sounds kind of weird. I totally balked at the idea of mustard in soup, for instance. I don't know WHERE he came up with this shit, I was bugging him about it the whole time we were eating. The conversation sort of went like this:
"So, where'd you come up with the idea for this soup, honey?"
"I don't know, it just sounded good."
"Well, is it based on any traditional type of recipe?"
"No, I just kind of wanted a mushroom soup that wasn't too thick."
"What on earth gave you the idea to put mustard in it!?"
"Mustard tastes good on mushrooms!"
Seriously, though- this is one of those recipes that had me making involuntary noises the whole time I was eating it. The flavor is almost impossible to describe, but I can tell you that it struck a perfect balance between hearty and light. The flavors were rich and complex without being muddled, the mustard and lemon juice lent a brightness without overpowering or turning it sour. It felt substantial, but it was still brothy enough to feel like a soup. The quinoa gave it an extra dimension of texture without being mushy or overcooked. In short, it was the perfect soup. Starting with a good stock and then cooking the soup with bones in it made it incredibly savory, and left the meat tender and juicy. This soup is going straight on a recipe card and into my box for safekeeping.