On chilly rainy fall evenings or in the heart of winter (where here in MN it might be twenty below zero outside) a rich soup with a piece of crusty bread is food for the hungry and for the heart. This morel bisque has a buttery earthy richness that warms the belly and evokes images of soft spring sunshine and dew on the grass.
1 lb of cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 oz (wt.) of dried morels (this is about two pint size jars of dried morels)
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
¼ c flour
One large shallot minced
2 c whole milk
2 c hot water
Salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic reduction or hot sauce
Step One: Rehydrate the morels
Take dried morels and separate in half. One pile will be sauteed at the end and served over the bisque, so choose the prettier ones for this pile. Submerge each with a cup of hot water and set aside to soak.
Step Two: Sauté Shallots and Mushrooms
Meanwhile, mince shallot and sautee in 1 tbsp of olive oil in large stockpot. Once shallot is soft and translucent, add cremini mushrooms and second tbsp of olive oil. Cook down and set aside in large bowl.
Step Three: Sauté Morels
Squeeze pile of morels free of water and drop into hot stockpot with remaining olive oil. Sauté until beginning water has mostly released and evaporated. Add three tablespoons of butter until butter melts. Whisk in flour to form a roux, stirring constantly so as not to burn the butter. Once morels have a thick gravy like coating, stir in the “morel liquor” from the morels now in the stockpot. Squeeze morels (set aside for the end) free of liquid and transfer to empty bowl. Pour remaining morel liquor into stockpot.
Step Four: Simmer the Stock
Whisk together the morels, morel liquor and roux such that everything is incorporated. Add mushrooms and shallots that were set aside. Add 2 c of whole milk. Salt generously. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. During this time, prepare a blender for use right beside the pot.
Step Five: Blend the Soup
After about 20 minutes, blend the soup in batches, utilizing the large bowl used before. Once the whole soup has been blasted in the blender, pour it into the stockpot and continue simmering.
Step Six: Sauté Final Morels for Garnish
While soup is simmering, heat up an additional tablespoon of oil in a cast iron or your favorite pan. Add the remaining morels. Drop in another tablespoon of butter. Sautee morels and sprinkle on a little salt.
Step Seven: Serve the Bisque
Ladle soup into bowls, top with buttery sauteed morels. Lightly drizzle balsamic reduction for a sweet pop or your favorite hot sauce if you prefer. Or nothing at all. Enjoy with a crusty loaf, if you’ve got one.