Gluten-Free Mushroom Mmmm-Mmmm-Umami and Wild Rice Soup

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I came across an intriguing new product this week: umami paste. Billed as a magic secret ingredient that will make all your food taste richer, rounder and more hail-to-the-cheffishly savory, it’s a mixture of tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, anchovies, porcini mushrooms and parmesan, among other things -- all foods high in umami, or glutamic acid – the vaunted “fifth flavor” that is essentially the taste of savory goodness. David Leite gave the Magic Paste the Leite’s Culinaria stamp of approval, saying,

I put it to the test by squeezing a few inches into a homemade tomato sauce, beef stew, and soup. It definitely gave a good one-two punch to the flavors, rounding and deepening them. It’s the perfect thing to have–and hide from the prying eyes of guests–if you want the cooking advantage in your clack of culinistas.

That reminded me of a soup recipe I’ve made before, one I saw on America’s Test Kitchen (behind a pay wall). It’s a quick beef soup which comes together in about an hour. To make up for the lack of depth given by simmering beef bones for hours, the ATK wizards subbed in umami-rich ingredients including soy, tomato paste, onions, mushrooms, and the flavor-rich fond that’s created on the bottom of the pan when you cook foods to a deep brown.

I have a Soup Swap pal who’s specifically asking for gluten-free soups, so I’ve been looking around for a gluten-free and possibly vegetarian recipe that tastes hearty. Though I’ve got the umami paste on order and can’t wait to squeeze it into everything but my morning coffee, it contains anchovies -- definitely not veggie. So this weekend at my mom's house, I messed around with the concept and whipped up this vegetarian-optional mushroom soup with toothsome wild rice standing in for the traditional barley. (At home, I now call this Umami With My Mommy Soup.)

Gluten-Free Mushroom Mmm-Mmm-Umami Soup

mushroom soup

2 cups water
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms (cremini, button, shiitake, whatever), sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 cup diced shallots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 rind of parmigiano-reggiano cheese (optional)
4 cups water, veggie broth or broth
1/4 cup white wine or extra broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped herbs (whatever you like but chives and parsley are nice

Place dried mushrooms in a bowl. Add 2 cups water, cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain mushrooms through very fine sieve or cheesecloth, reserving water. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrots, celery, and shallots and a pinch of salt. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Scrape veggies to the side of the pot and add about a teaspoon of oil to the cleared space. Add tomato paste and garlic. Saute until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add sherry and soy, scraping the bottom of the pot to release the flavorful brown fond (this is called deglazing). Cook until the sherry-soy liquid has reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add water or broth, reserved mushroom liquid, and balsamic vinegar, along with bay leaves and rind of parmigiano if using.

Add wild rice to soup pot. Bring to boil, then turn down heat until soup is barely simmering.

In large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in skillet until shimmering. Add half of the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Saute until mushrooms release their moisture, then turn heat to high and cook until mushrooms are deep brown on all sides. Set aside and repeat with the rest of the mushrooms. Transfer mushrooms to soup pot.

Over low heat, deglaze skillet you cooked the mushrooms in with 1/4 cup of white wine or broth. Scrape bottom of pan to dislodge browned bits. Add deglazing liquid + bits to soup pot.

Cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped herbs.

Would you buy umami paste?

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