Caramelized Leek + Mushroom Soup

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Soup is such an underrated meal. Yes, it can be a meal. With a few ingredients (almost always including onions, broth and other vegetables) you can have a warming, flavourful bowl of I-can’t-beleive-this-only-took-half-an-hour! Maybe a little longer than that, but not much.
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Looking at this recipe it doesn’t seem like anything special. But the time you take to caramelize the leeks, the seemingly insignificant edition of brandy and the sprinkling of fresh herbs elevates this soup to dinner-party status. The crunchy almost burnt crouton garnish add a modern variation of a traditional french onion soup cheese lid. This version is lighter in all aspects but certainly does not lack flavour; think of it as a french onion soup make-over.
Caramelized Leek + Mushroom Soup

  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 4 cups (1 L) sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) brandy, Cognac or sherry
  • 6 cups (1.5 L) chicken or vegetable stock (preferably low sodium)
Croutons

  • ¼ baguette, cut into ½-inch (1-cm) cubes, about 2 cups (500 mL)
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) butter, melted
  • ½ cup (125 mL) finely shredded sharp, hard cheese (old cheddar or parmesan)

Soup

  1. Melt butter over medium heat in a large pot. Cook leeks and sugar, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes or until starting to caramelize.
  3. Increase heat to medium-high and stir in mushrooms, thyme, rosemary and ¼ tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until mushrooms release their liquid and start to brown.
  4. Stir in brandy and cook, stirring, until evaporated. Stir in stock and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits stuck to pot.
  5. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until flavours are blended. (Soup can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat to steaming before serving.)
Croutons

  1. Just before serving, make the croutons. Preheat oven to 450ºF (230ºC).
  2.  In a bowl, drizzle bread cubes with melted butter and toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and toss to evenly coat, pressing to adhere cheese if necessary.
  3. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 8 minutes or until deep golden and crispy (watch closely that they don’t burn).
  4. Remove from baking sheet immediately using a spatula and transfer to a bowl.

Finish

  1. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into warmed bowls and serve topped with hot croutons.
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