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White Bean Soup with Wild Mushrooms & Chive Mascarpone

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Serves six to eight.

Yields 8 cups.

This elegant soup is really just a simple purée of white beans, but top it with some earthy sautéed wild mushrooms and a dollop of herbed mascarpone cheese, and it becomes a refined first course. The trick to getting a smooth, silky texture  is to purée the beans and vegetables with only a small amount of the cooking liquid first, and then to slowly pour in more liquid until you get a nice, creamy consistency.

  • 1 Tbs. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sprig rosemary (leaves only)
  • 1 chile d’árbol (or other small, hot dried chile), stemmed and crumbled
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fennel
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups dried cannellini beans, picked through and rinsed
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 Tbs. minced shallots
  • 1 Tbs. minced chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lb. wild mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps thinly sliced (such as shiitake, oyster mushrooms, or chanterelles)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Make the soup:

Toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until they release their aroma and are golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Pound them coarsely in a mortar or grind them coarsely in a spice grinder.

Heat a 6- to 8-qt. heavy-bottomed pot over high heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup olive oil and add the rosemary leaves and chile. Let them sizzle in the oil for about 1 minute. Add the onion, fennel, fennel seeds, and 1 Tbs. thyme and cook until the onion is softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the beans to the pot and cook a few more minutes, stirring to coat well. Add 3 quarts of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low and place a circle of parchment over the beans to keep them underwater. Simmer, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, add 1-1/2 Tbs. salt to the beans, and continue cooking at a low simmer until the beans are tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

While the soup is cooking, stir together the mascarpone, minced shallots, and chives in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Separate the bean mixture from the liquid by straining the soup over a bowl. Put half the bean mixture into a blender with 1/2 cup of the liquid (you will need to purée the soup in batches). Process on the lowest speed until the mixture is puréed. With the blender running at medium speed, slowly pour in more of the liquid, until the soup is the consistency of heavy cream. Turn the speed up to high, and blend until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside, and repeat with the second batch. (Save any extra liquid for thinning the soup later, if necessary.) Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep the soup warm in a pot on the stove. If making ahead, cool completely before refrigerating.

Sauté the mushrooms:
Tip:

If making the soup ahead, save the leftover cooking liquid. The soup will thicken as it sits and may need to be thinned with more of the liquid before serving. If necessary, adjust the seasoning as well.

Turn on the exhaust fan. Heat a 12-inch skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil and the butter. When the butter melts, scatter the mushrooms into the pan. Season with 1/4 tsp. salt and a pinch of pepper. Cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, browned, and a little crispy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and the remaining 1 tsp. thyme and remove from the heat.

Ladle the hot soup into warm bowls. Scatter warm mushrooms over the top and add a dollop of the mascarpone.

Make Ahead Tips

The soup and chive mascarpone can be made up to one day in advance and refrigerated. The mushrooms can be sautéed a few hours in advance. Reheat the soup and mushrooms just before serving.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on eight servings; Calories (kcal): 490; Fat (g): 32; Fat Calories (kcal): 280; Saturated Fat (g): 10; Protein (g): 15; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 16; Carbohydrates (g): 40; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): 700; Cholesterol (mg): 40; Fiber (g): 9;

Sophisticated soup especially nice as a first course. For those cautious about salt, I've found that using about half the amount of salt in most soup/casserole dishes is more than enough for flavor. A diner can always add a bit more from the shaker after the dish is served.

After all the glowing reviews and the description I expected this to be a slam dunk. However, I was disappointed with the result. I found the herbs to overly aromatic and just too strong of a flavor in the final soup. Also, I added less salt than the recipe called for and the soup was so incredibly salty I couldn't eat it. I really liked the soup in theory and thought that the marscapone topping was a nice touch and works well on other soups, I would have to make major adjustments if I made this again in the future. I wonder how mine turned out so differently that the rest. I am typically a pretty good cook. Maybe I will try again and find out.

This soup is delicious! I have made it every Christmas for the past 4 years

Really wonderful. We will make this again and again.

This was wonderful. Couldn't find wild mushrooms so just used cremini.

Terrific soup! Will definitely make it again. I pureed only half the beans and left the other half whole and used all of the cooking liquid. Also added shredded roast chicken breast I had from the night before. Had creme fraiche, so substituted for the mascarpone. The beans were so creamy. Wonderful, simple, hearty and tasty. So glad I have leftovers!

I made this for Christmas dinner and everyone really liked it! It was also the first leftover to go. The comments were that it was a meal in itself. I live at 8500 feet, so based on suggestions from other folks on a cookstalk forum, I soaked the beans overnight. Also, my store was all out of cannilini beans, so I used great northern beans. I kept everything else as the recipe suggested. I ended up cooking the beans for about 3 hours to get them tender and even with extra water added didn't have enough cooking water left to thin to the consistancy suggested (cream). I left it kind of thick when I served it and people still liked that. I will definitely make this again, but it does take extra time with the cooking and soaking. I'm glad I cooked it the day before I served it.

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