Cream of Mushroom Soup with Chestnut Cream

mushroom soups

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Chestnut Cream

Makes approximately six cups

  • 3 ½ Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 Shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 Pounds assorted mushrooms
  • 4 Tablespoons Madeira
  • 1 Teaspoon thyme
  • 5 Cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons salt
  • ½ Teaspoon white pepper
  • ¾ Cup cream
  • 3 Tablespoons flour (optional)

To Make the Soup

Slice the mushrooms.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a deep pot, and then add the mushrooms and the chopped shallots.

Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms and shallots are wilted, and the water from the mushrooms has cooked off.  This will take about 7 minutes.

Add the Madeira, thyme and at this point, if you would like a thicker soup, the flour.  Reduce the heat and cook for five minutes stirring constantly if you have added the flour.

Add the chicken broth, salt, pepper and cream.

Bring the soup up to a boil and simmer for thirty minutes.

The Elegant Occasion Note: This soup can be made 24 hours in advance, and gently reheated.

For the Chestnut Puree

½ Cup chestnuts (vacuum packed)

¼ Cup chicken broth

1/3 Cup crème fraiche

Place the chicken broth and chestnuts in a sauce pan and let cook so that the chestnuts soften.  About 20 minutes.  Place the entire mixture in a blender and puree.  Add crème fraiche and stir to incorporate.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This cream can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

To Plate the Soup

Ladle the soup into bowls and place a dollop of the chestnut cream in the center.  Garnish with fresh thyme leaves.

French Onion Soup

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French Onion Soup

The weather got very cold, very fast!  What better way to warm up than with a steaming bowl of soup, and if it happens to be topped with golden, bubbly cheeseeven better.  It freezes well too, so if you have leftovers put them in the freezer.  Just be sure to reheat the soup by heating it stovetop for 15 minutes at a high simmer.

French Onion Soup

  • 4 Large Spanish onions
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, split in half
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (leaves only)
  • 2 Teaspoons salt
  • ½ Teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • ½ Cup Marsala wine
  • 8 Cups chicken broth
  • 4 Slices rustic bread
  • 2 Cups Gruyere cheese, shredded

Cut the onions in half and then cut lengthwise in half again. Thinly slice each onion across to get a nice even slice.  Discard the root.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven over medium low heat.

When the butter has melted, add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and thyme. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Reduce the heat to low and let the onions slowly cook and caramelize, turning every five minutes or so. This step takes patience.  The more the onions cook down the richer the flavor of the soup so be patient.  This process can take up to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the four over the onions and stir to coat and cook away the taste of the flour.

Add the Marsala wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan for about two minutes.

Add in the chicken broth and cover.

Cook the soup over low heat for 2 hours (stirring occasionally). Be sure to taste the soup for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Cut the bread into large cubes or croutons (to fit your ovenproof soup bowl or ramekin).

Place the bread on a lined baking sheet and broil until browned on all sides (careful not to burn the bread, this process takes only seconds).

Place a piece of the bread in each bowl; ladle the soup over it filling to almost the top.

Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese on top of the soup and then place the bowls on a baking sheet and pop them under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese.

Serve immediately.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing: White Wine: White Burgundy or Alsace Riesling Red Wine: Beaujolais or Bordeaux

Creamy Carrot Soup


It’s snowing! Today is the perfect day for my creamy carrot soup topped off with a dollop of crème fraiche, crumbled bacon and chopped chive.

Creamy Carrot Soup

  • 4 Slices bacon
  • 2 Scallion, ends removed
  • 2 Shallots, chopped
  • 2 Pounds carrots, peeled
  • 1 Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
  • 8 Cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • ¼ Teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
  • Crème Fraiche for garnish
  • Chopped chives for garnish

To Prepare the Soup

In a heavy stock pot, fry the bacon until crispy.

Transfer bacon to a paper towel and reserve for later.

Add the scallion and shallot to the pot with the bacon fat and sauté until translucent.

Add the carrots, potato, salt and pepper and ginger and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Cover the pot, turn the heat down to a simmer, and cook for one hour.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a standing blender (or with a hand-held immersion blender).

Return the soup to the pot and taste for seasoning.

Ladle soup into bowls and dollop with crème fraiche, crumbled bacon and chopped chive.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  If the soup is too thick, slowly add more chicken stock.

This soup can be made up to 3 days ahead of time, and it can be frozen for up to one month.

This soup is great with crusty, sourdough bread.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc or Fume Blanc

Make a Fall Centerpiece

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Make a Fall Centerpiece

Nothing puts a smile on kid’s faces like breaking out the Thanksgiving decorations…after all, November 1st in my house means the holidays have begun. While I absolutely adore my Thanksgiving Cornucopia, it is an arrangement that needs to be made right before Thanksgiving since I use real flowers and fruits.

I was looking to create something that has the same “harvest” feel of the cornucopia….something that I could assemble on November 1st and roll right through the month with. This arrangement is elegant, yet easy to assemble and it can remain on the table during a meal without obstructing the view of my family and friends.  I have to say it was sort of a happy accident.  I saw a picture of fruits and vegetables laid out down the center of a dining table and I loved the effect.  I set out to create a similar look, but self-contained so that it was moveable.

First, I chose a pretty, shallow iron bread basket (from Home Goods), oblong in shape, and added faux fruit and pumpkins.  To give the fall centerpiece a more realistic look, I gathered leaves from my yard and interspersed them among the fruit and around the perimeter of the basket.  And then for height, I used wired feathers (found at the craft store) and tied them around stalks of faux berries. The feathers are tucked into the fruit at different eye levels on each side to add visual interest. I finish the whole look with tall candles on both side and votives scattered around all around the table.  I love this look so much; I may just leave it as my Thanksgiving centerpiece and embellish it with real fruit for the holiday.

Braised Short Ribs

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Braised Short Ribs

I love braised short ribs…this comforting dish is perfect on a chilly evening.  The tenderness of the meat and the richness of the sauce produce a truly satisfying meal that I just cannot get enough of. I encourage you to make this dish in advance as noted.  The flavors have time to mingle and it makes entertaining a cinch.

Braised Short Ribs

Serves 5

  • 10 Short ribs
  • 1 Cup flour for dredging, plus 1 tablespoon for thickening
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 Shallot, peeled and split in half
  • 3 Carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
  • 2 Celery stalks, peeled and diced fine
  • 3 Sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Cups dry red wine
  • 2 Cups beef broth
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste

To Prepare the Short Ribs

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven.

Season the flour with some salt and pepper.

Working in batches, dredge the short ribs in the flour and sear on all sides (about 2 minutes per side).

When the first batch of short ribs have been seared on all sides, remove them with a slotted spoon to a plate and repeat the process with remaining short ribs.  When the last of the short ribs have been seared, place them on the plate with the others.

In the same pan that you seared the beef, add the garlic, carrots, celery, shallots, thyme, bay, salt and pepper and stir to coat with the oil and pan drippings.

When the vegetables have begun to soften (about 5-7 minutes), sprinkle the tablespoon of flour over them and stir continuously so that you cook the flour.  The flour will take on a golden texture and a nutty fragrance.

Add the red wine and beef stock and deglaze the pan by whisking vigorously. The flour will thicken the wine and stock.

Now add in the tomato paste and whisk until dissolved.

Add the short ribs back into the pan and bring to a simmer.

Cover the pan and place in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour.

After the hour is up, stir the short ribs and taste the sauce for seasoning. Cook for another hour covered.

After the second hour, stir again and then cook uncovered for another half hour at 350.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  The short ribs can be cooked up to this point and then stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  In fact, I highly recommend cooking these in advance as the flavor gets even better when the dish has had time to rest overnight. When ready to serve, gently heat the short ribs for 20 minutes on the stove.

I serve this dish in a shallow bowl, giving each person two short ribs and two shallots. Place the ribs around creamy mashed potatoes or creamy polenta.  Garnish with more thyme sprigs.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing:  Barolo