We're back again with another bisque – that creamy, deliciously smooth soup we've all grown to love. The timing couldn't be better, really, with the first days of autumn popping up out of nowhere. Fall is definitely here, and warm, hearty soups are the best way to stave off the chillier days.
With every great soup, though, comes a necessary partner – garnish. But we're not talking just simple garnishes, no – we want something with some bite to it, something nice and crunchy to offset that silky texture. Contrasting senses are a great thing in the culinary word, and soup and crackers is probably the most common sense thing you can do.
Wait - crackers?!
No, we're not boring. I'll give you a run-down on three different garnishes that can be used not just for the mushroom bisque, but a wide variety of soups. With a bit of modification, you can turn these three garnishes into great accompaniments for any soup you can dream up.
The first, of course, is the crostini, and this is the closest to the cracker. Take some slices of good sourdough. Then, punch out rounds or cut triangles or make any other interesting shapes you'd like. (I've heard that you can get Star Wars sandwich cutters, you could try those too) Crank your oven up to the broil setting, then put some Swiss cheese on top of the cut shapes. Pop 'em in the oven till brown, and now you've got a toasted and "melty" pairing for your soup. Gruyere or Provolone works wonders as well. Float 'em on the soup or serve them on the side.
The second involves a bit more work. Filo dough is a very thin, sheeted dough used for baklava and other pastries. You can find it in the frozen section of a store, next to pie crusts and the like. On a cutting board, lay out one sheet of filo at a time, brush with butter, and then lightly sprinkle some finely chopped herbs (rosemary, parsley, basil, etc etc) and a bit of salt and pepper. Put another layer of filo on top, repeat the herbs and more filo about a half dozen times, then transfer to a sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the filo stack into long, thin rectangles, longer than the bowls you'll be serving the soup in, and cook in a 350 degree oven until golden brown (anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes). Once cooled, ladle the bisque into the bowls, place a filo piece on top of each bowl, and serve. It adds great crunch and an interesting visual element.
The final garnish involves another dough, puff pastry. You can find it close to the filo in the frozen section. Puff pastry usually comes as one individual sheet, and you'll want to take a rolling pin and gently roll out the puff a few extra inches around each side. Lightly fold the puff in half to determine the halfway mark, then lightly brush egg yolks over the whole puff sheet. Sprinkle herbs, spices, cheese or whatever you'd like – you can even do a thick, flavorful tomato puree for some real zing – on top of one side, spread out enough to let the egg wash peek through. Fold the puff in half, sandwiching the flavorings, then cut long strips. Twist the strips with your fingers into corkscrews, then lay the pieces on a sheet pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown (probably 10-15 minutes). These twisty sticks can be rested atop the bowls, like the filo, or if you use a tall soup cup, you can stand them up in the soup for some height.
Try the garnishes, they're all fun, and the add great flavor; be sure to experiment with their components and you use them for different soups. Enjoy!
The Cliff House’s Mushroom Bisque
Yields 1 Gallon
1/4-cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion (diced)
2 lbs. mushrooms (three types) quartered
(Shiitake, trumpet, Portobello, Crimini,
Chanterelle, domestic button, morel, porcini)
1 pinch salt and fresh ground black pepper
3c dry white wine
4 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme, chives, parsley, chervil)
4quarts heavy cream
4oz Truffle Oil
Heat olive oil in soup pot. Sauté onions until they start to carmalize. Add mushrooms, salt, pepper and sauté over low heat for approximately 10minutes.
Add the wine and simmer until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the cream and simmer for 30 minutes. Blend with hand blender till smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning to your own taste. Finish with herbs and Truffle Oil.
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