SPICY CREAM-OF-SHITAKE SOUP
(Adapted from Garlic Mushroom Soup on eCurry.com)
Spicy Sesame Oil
5 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
3-5 dried chili peppers (I used chili d'arbol)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 C. sherry or white wine
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cans chicken stock (about 4 cups)
1 C. half-and-half
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1. Make the hot chili oil. Toast the chili peppers in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, until fragrant. Crush into flakes in an old coffee grinder, 3 or 4 short pulses. Alternately, crush by hand while wearing gloves and taking care not the touch your face or other places that wouldn't appreciate a strong burning sensation. Heat sesame oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add chili flakes and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep until cool. Strain oil into a small bowl and reserve chili flakes in another.
2. Heat 2 T. of chili oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add half of garlic and cook for a minute or so. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until juices have mostly evaporated and begun to darken in pan, about 10 minutes. Deglaze pan with half of the sherry and move mushrooms to a bowl.
3. Heat 2 T. of chili oil in now-empty pan over high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until limp and somewhat caramelized, about 10 minutes. Deglaze pan with remainder of sherry, scraping pan to loosen any browned bits. Add remainder of garlic and thyme. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk-in 2 C. stock. Add half-and-half. Simmer for a few minutes and remove from heat.
4. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or food processor, making it as chunky or smooth as you like. Return to simmer and add remaining stock as needed to reach desired consistency. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper and/or reserved chili flakes to taste. Serve, garnished with green onion slices and remaining chili oil.