Cream of mushroom soup is evil in my household. Most of us have sensitivities to msg. It is found in so many foods it’s ridiculous! Not only is it in most canned soups, msg can be found in SO many boxed, frozen or canned foods and many snack foods like chips or dips. Our solution is to read labels in the grocery store and to not buy those foods.
But that makes quick lunches or dinners more difficult. Making a bowl of soup for lunch would then involve a lot of veggie chopping, chicken stewing, etc and that’s just sort of crazy. We definitely have to plan ahead or freeze things for quick use.
Cream of mushroom soup and cream of chicken soup are two things I really miss. There are major labels that make msg free versions but they just don’t have the flavor. Msg is one of those naturally occurring salts that enhance the flavor of food. I’m not a scientist but my take on it is that basically it triggers taste buds to get more out of flavors. If the companies making the foods are using good quality ingredients shouldn’t there already be natural good flavoring in the finished product?
Anywhere I’ve read, including Wikipedia, is quick to say that the “Chinese restaurant syndrome” that is experienced by some people after eating msg flavored dishes has not been thoroughly studied. Believe me when I say I wish I was making up the side effect we all experience. Really, who would want to pretend to have these reactions?? Just a thought, but if something is allowed to be put in our foods, shouldn’t the possible side effects be thoroughly studied? Why the suggestion that perhaps it’s not msg, we don’t really know what might have caused that effect?
So I’m annoyed at the powers that be and wish someone would seriously research msg and its effects on humans. In the meantime I buy fresh and flavorful foods that don’t need an msg flavor enhancing method to taste good. My tongue likes the flavor of asparagus or mushrooms sautéed in butter with chopped onions. When I add an msg-free broth and cream, then use an immersion blender, it is an absolute cream of asparagus or mushroom treat on my tongue! And really, once you’ve made it from scratch a time or two, it is very quick. Or as I’ve said before: make a big batch and freeze it up in bottles for quick soup or sauces!
My first task was to replace cream of mushroom soup as there is one time of the year I do need that. My family’s Swedish Meatballs for Christmas Eve has been a tradition since before I was born. While the other heartier Norwegians are eating their boiled lutefisk (oh the smell!), boiled potatoes and boiled rutabagas all drenched in a puddle of butter, the rest of us eat Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and green beans. I’m not sure why our meatballs are called Swedish; nobody ever explained that and it was just always acceptable even though it was made by my full-blooded Norwegian Grandma. But her meatball recipe does rely on several cans of cream of mushroom soup.
Mushroom soup was rather easy to find on recipe sites. The spices vary a great deal from cook to cook but to be cautious I started with nothing besides salt and pepper. Amazingly, the flavor of the mushrooms themselves, and the onions, was so good that no spices were needed. I do add a few pinches of nutmeg when I make Swedish meatballs, since it is one of the ingredients in the family recipe.
The mushroom soup recipe I settled on is so good that I love to add some milk to thin it out a bit and sip a hot cup for a nice treat. It has a small amount of thyme in it; a hint of seasoning. Just a splash of sherry in it can make it oh-so-nice at times. It’s like that touch of acid chefs use make a dish “pop”. You could also add a tiny splash of red or white wine vinegar for the same effect.
The type of mushrooms used will make a difference in the flavoring of course. I usually use the white button mushrooms so readily available year round in the produce section. Baby bellas or even large portabellas also make excellent soup but are more seasonal up here in the north. I made an interesting version of the soup using portabella mushrooms last summer that had just a touch of Worcestershire in it to give it a more exotic flavor profile. That was just yummy! I’d like to figure out what to use to make the “golden mushroom” flavor that Campbell’s produces.
3 tablespoons butter
5-6 cups mushrooms; sliced, fresh
1/2 cup onion; chopped
4 cups chicken or beef broth
1/8 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon cooking sherry
In a large saucepan saute mushrooms and onions in butter until onions are translucent. Add broth, thyme, salt and pepper and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
Puree soup with immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until smooth.