The Cuisine Scene/Brenda's Bistro
Brenda Hill

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

As much as I joke about the food served in Minnesota, I have to admit that in the twelve years I lived there, I discovered some fantastic dishes. Some, though, caused me to back away in a hasty retreat. 

I admire Minnesotans; they’re hearty people. The north/central section of the state is dotted with small towns surrounded by lakes perfect for fishing and boating, and it doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter. My first winter was an education as the temperature plunged forty below. That’s forty below zero, although I quit counting when the needle dipped below freezing. But Minnesotans are hearty. And adventuresome. Even when icicles formed on the tip of their noses, they fished. Five feet of ice covering a lake didn’t slow them down; they simply hauled fish houses onto the ice and supplied them with enough food to last a season, fish bait, and augers to drill fishing holes through the ice. Then they settled in, nice and cozy. The first time I saw them, I was driving by Lake Mille Lacs, a huge expanse of water that covers about 200 square miles, and I saw clusters of funny little houses and wondered why people put their outhouses on a frozen lake.

If that wasn’t strange enough, I discovered Minnesotans had some strange tastes in food. Some I tried and liked, but I steered clear of others.

I could handle Lefse, a Norwegian flatbread made of potato, cream, and flour, cooked on a griddle, but when someone mentioned lutefisk, whitefish preserved in lye, I bolted out the back door. As someone told me, in the old days before refrigerators, people stored the fish through the winter by stacking piles of it around the house similar to stacking wood for their fires. They didn’t have to worry about it disappearing as no living creature would come near the stuff. I’m sure it helped families survive the harsh winters, but no one today has to eat it. Some do in honor of tradition, but in my book, no tradition is worth braving lye fish.

Some of their concoctions were delicious, though. One of the resorts on a nearby lake served the best fudge pie I’ve ever eaten, so rich it was like a finely-textured fudge cheesecake. And when word spread that a restaurant in a small town of about 1.7 square miles just south of where I lived was preparing their famous Hungarian mushroom soup, people plowed through blizzards and ice-packed highways just to have a bowl.

I managed to get the recipe. It’s easy to make and it doesn’t take long, only about a half hour from the time you gather ingredients to the time you can serve, although it tastes so good everyone will think you spent hours in the kitchen.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Makes 8 cups

1 quart beef stock * (see note)
8 T butter, divided
1 c chopped onion
1 T chopped fresh garlic
1/2 t salt
3 c chopped fresh mushrooms
1 T dill weed
1 T paprika
1/8 t white pepper
1/2 c flour
2 c heavy cream
3 T sour cream
1 T lemon juice
1 T soy sauce

For an easy beef stock, heat 1 qt water over high heat in medium saucepan, add 2 T beef base, 2 t Worcestershire sauce and 1/4 t Tabasco sauce. Stir to dissolve base and set aside.

In a large saucepan, sauté onion, garlic, and salt in 4 T butter until onion is tender. Stir in mushrooms, dill weed, paprika and white pepper. Add half of the beef stock. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt remaining 4 T butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook until smooth, stirring constantly, approx 1 minute. Add cream and continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 8-10 minutes. Add this cream to mixture and remaining stock to mushroom mixture. Stir in sour cream, lemon juice and soy sauce. Heat thoroughly.

Next time I might even find where I stashed the recipe for that fantastic fudge pie.

Till then, bon appétit, y’all.