French novelist Janine Boissard helped me through college.
Not that she is aware of this act of kindness. But her books — none of them long but all of them lovely — created a pleasant diversion for me on weekends.
She wrote a series of books about the daughters in a family with ties to Normandy; I felt an affinity for them because I had relatives with the same surname. She also wrote other novels, too, and many times they were gentle feminist stories about women achieving some sort of independence or reaching some sort of decision.
I recall one book in which a woman’s husband leaves her for another woman, a younger one, of course. She drives through the rain into Normandy to spend time with her father, and they feast on a rustic meal that included mushrooms. It may have been soup or it may have been a mushroom omelet. No matter; it was comforting. I liked that scene.
I had that comfort in mind tonight when I made such a soup, using that leftover rind of Parmesan and some thyme to give it body and depth. Creaminess and warmth were what I craved.
Rustic Mushroom Soup with Thyme
10 ounces mushrooms
1 small onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups chicken or turkey broth
½ cup dry white wine or sherry
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
dash sel de fleur
Brush mushrooms clean with damp towel; quarter and set aside.
Melt half of butter in heavy stockpot. Add onions and heat until onions become transparent. Add mushrooms and the rest of the butter and stir until mushrooms begin to darken and cook. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for an hour.
After an hour of simmering, allow the soup to cool. Working in batches, transfer mushrooms and most of the onions to a blender and purée, holding the blender top down. Return the purée to the stockpot, add wine and allow to simmer for another hour. At this point, I added my rind of Parmesan cheese and the thyme and left it in long enough for some flavor and texture to be released. I removed it after about 20 minutes.
Just before serving, I also added ¼ cup of half and half, to give my soup some creaminess.
Note: Tasty and layered, if less full-bodied than I would have liked. It was inspired by an Anthony Bourdain recipe. He says it's better the next day. Let's hear it for leftovers!