Golden Mushroom Soup with Buttered Orzo
it's quiet luxury
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TGIF, I couldn’t focus on anything else but making some buttered orzo and so I thought I could pass that along to you today. I want to thank everyone who commented, emailed and reached out from the last newsletter— I don’t take any of this for granted, how many people show up to say something nice and support this (and all of the other) work. It’s a gorgeous little positive pocket of the internet over here, and I’m so glad it exists. Thank you for being here. Horses forever.
After taking out my Invisalign and failing to put it back in with any regularity, I’m back on the wagon and my teeth are aching for several hours a day until my mouth gets used to it. In other news, it finally snowed in New York. Not enough for it to mean anything, but enough for everyone to cancel plans and forget how to dress. These two historic events colliding can only mean one thing: soup. Soup again, soup still. Let’s soup forever.
The origins of this recipe in my head are absurd, and specific. There’s an episode of 30 Rock where Kenneth is out to dinner and when they come to take his order, he says “excuse me, do ya’ll just have some noodles with butter?” It is pure and it is lovely and I think about it at least once a week, sometimes more. Anyway, the cold weather plus my inoperable mouth got me thinking about soft, little buttered noodles. Buttered noodles quickly turned into soup because I simply love broth. I had been also fantasizing on a separate thread about beef stroganoff but with mushrooms (imagine a group chat, except its just me talking about variations of stroganoff), but have honestly never really enjoyed any sort of stroganoff, so the fantasy ends there. That said, I did end up with a fridge full of mushrooms, because, well, this week I came close.
So, between the Invisalign re-entry, a very old 30 Rock episode, what passes as “weather,” and fantasizing about a stroganoff even I could love, we got here. Golden Mushroom Soup with Buttered Orzo. The mind is a beautiful place.
This is the type of soup that, if you’re only reading the recipe, might feel sort of austere and maybe a little unexciting. But what you’re likely underestimating is the power of mushrooms (naturally high in umami, a fever dream of mixed textures, visually dazzling in all their shapes and sizes), who are doing most of if not all of the heavy lifting here. While technically this could be done with all commodity button or cremini mushrooms, I can’t say it would look or taste as good as if you had used a mix of the more exotic types, such as oyster, maitake, trumpet, chanterelle or yellowfoot (some available cultivated, others only wild)*. While I do my best to make sure that any ingredient will work in any recipe, sometimes I’ll try to steer you to a specific ingredient to maximize your enjoyment and success rate with a certain recipe. This is one of those times.
*I am pretty excited about the mushroom options these days at pretty much every farmers market, big box grocery store, small boutique grocer, and grocery delivery service. I think companies like Smallhold are very cool, bringing previously only “wild” and therefore perhaps “inaccessible” types of mushrooms to a larger audience. Mushrooms are magic and I love that so many different varieties are now widely available.
When I say you don’t need broth, only water, I mean it. If you only have broth or bouillon to spare, it will only do you more favors, but that said, I kind of enjoy the monk-like austerity of the mushroom/garlic/water magic that occurs (with a fish sauce assist, of course). It creates a broth that is delicate and earthy, like a very good, robust mushroom tea almost.
The turmeric, which sometimes can get masked among other spices, also really lets its presence here be known, its earthiness a true partner for all those mushrooms. The butter, which is a perfect ingredient always and forever amen, mingles with the broth and gives it a much needed fattiness for which to carry all that flavor, settling into the grains of orzo (which get cooked right in the pot, plumed in the mushroom broth) for the intended “buttered noodle” effect.
It may shock you there aren’t herbs here, but there could be. Again, its a monastic soup, always what I seem to want every January. But if you’re thinking about it, dill would be my number one choice, followed by chives and parsley. Parmesan would also be a nice little addition, especially on day two of the soup, where the grains of orzo get pleasantly bloated with the broth, visibly heartier than it was the day before.
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