My favorite morel soup recipe of all time is this bisque. I originally developed it as a way to serve morels at a reasonable price to the general public. Read on and I'll explain the details of how you can make it at home.
When morel season came around, I knew I couldn't afford to buy any for the restaurant, but I did have some at home, so I did an experiment. I wanted to serve the best creamy morel soup ever.
My experiment revolved around one question: can I purchase dried morels and incorporate them into a morel-focused dish and not break the bank, i.e. keep a decent food cost?
Expensive dried mushrooms
Fresh morels will probably come in around 20$/lb, or much more depending on who you're dealing with. The price can be volatile.
Dried morels on the other hand are very price stable, because their availability is reliant upon harvests in burn areas and other spots of natural black morels, typically on the West Coast.
I've never seen typical gold/grey morels for sale through wholesale purveyors. Dried morels come in right around 250$lb, or roughly 15.63$/oz or 48 cents/gram.
When the powers that be look at my purchases each week, large numbers over a hundred dollars had better be a box of expensive beef, duck, bison, or maybe some spendy chocolate for the pastry team.
By comparison, for 300$ I can get enough bison to run an entree for an entire week. If I'm going to bring in some fun stuff, I have to know how to make the numbers work, because at the end of the day it's not about what I want to serve, it's about the restaurant numbers being healthy.
Fortunately I've been through enough rough spots to know how to squeeze money out of a dish. Soup can have a high profit margin, much more than an expensive steak or piece of fish, so that's where I started tinkering with a recipe that could work.
To sum things up, here's the recipe I developed. In order to get a solid morel flavor, I ended up using about 3 ounces in the finished batch, which yields about a gallon, with a cost of morels coming out to about 35$/batch, with other ingredients probably around 10$ on the high side for a total of 45/gallon of soup, which is very expensive for a gallon of soup, but, they're morels, after all.
If I sell 4 ounce ladles of the soup for 10/portion, that's a total of 320$ net profit from one batch, and our food cost equation, assuming we're shooting for 30% (a standard for decent restaurants) will look something like this:
45$cost/320$ net profit =.140625
That's roughly 14% food cost or C.O.G.S/cost of goods sold
In the end, the soup is within workable margins by a long shot, we could even adjust the price down and still have some wiggle room to account for waste. Fortunately at home you don't have to worry about food cost or pleasing who you report to.
If you're a mushroom hunter, you might just need to use up some dried morels you've been hanging on to before the next season. My advice is: Invite some friends over for some creamy morel bisque.
Creamy Dried Morel Soup (Bisque)
- Good blender
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup rice
- 8 oz 1 medium onion diced small
- 4 oz 2 ribs celery, diced small
- ½ cup sherry or brandy
- 1 oz dried morel mushrooms
- Kosher salt to taste
- Ground white pepper to taste
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Sliced chives or wild onion tops for garnishing, optional
- Heat the stock, then pour over the morels and allow to hydrate for 30 minutes, then swish them to remove grit, remove the mushrooms and reserve then strain the liquid and keep separate.
- Separate the mushrooms into 2 piles: saving prettiest, smallest mushrooms that will fit on a spoon for garnish, rough chop the other half.
- Sweat the celery and onion in 2 tablespoons of the butter for 5 minutes, add the rice and cook for a minute more, then add the sherry and reduce by half. Add the stock, and the chopped morels bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes on low heat, or until the rice is just tender.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender*, add the cream, and puree until very smooth—a minute or two, carefully starting on low speed and gradually moving to high as you get comfortable-hot soup in a blender can be dangerous--make sure there's room for air to escape through the top of the blender lid while pureeing. Gradually add 3 tablespoons of butter. Finally, season the mixture with salt and white pepper to taste.
- To serve, heat the reserved pretty morels in the remaining butter until just caramelized and lightly browned and spoon them onto the hot soup, garnishing with chives or wild onion tops if using.
Forager's Guide to Morel Mushrooms
Hi Chef - you are calling for 2.5 cups of white rice - I'm not seeing it used in the recipe and to the best of my knowledge rice doesn't generally go into a bisque. Just wanted to get clarity because it sounds amazing.
Hi Jen, rice is the traditional thickening liaison of a bisque. I adjusted the recipe. Thanks for pointing that out.
Ingredients list 2.5 cups white rice, but in the Method there is no rice mentioned.
Recipe has been adjusted. Thank you for pointing that out.
I love reading about your creativity stemming from necessity. And this soup looks divine, and I'm guessing no one ever suspected dried morels were used!
I was wondering though how the 2.5 cups of white rice fits into the recipe? Do you add precooked rice and blend it into the soup? Or add to the soup after blending?
I so look forward to trying this recipe with a mix of dried mushrooms, including dried morels, that I have on hand.
Thanks Andrea. A lot of times I end up editing these late at night and this week the restaurant has been eating me alive. The rice is added to the vegetables as they sweat, then you just simmer until the rice is done, buzz it up and viola, it's very easy. Thanks for pointing that out.
How about a liaison to reduce the dairy, thickening more with yolks than cream?
* Note: 2/3 cup cream and 2 egg yolks. Whisk cream and egg yolks together in a medium bowl. Stirring slowly and constantly, add 2 cups of hot soup to cream mixture to temper the yolks. Stirring constantly, slowly pour cream mixture into simmering soup. Heat gently, stirring constantly, until soup registers 165 degrees (do not overheat).
Hi Joe, yes a thickening liaison with egg yolks is fantastic, tricky for me to execute at the restaurant unless I put the soup in thermoses or have the cooks whisk a la minute, which would come with much complaining. At home it's a fantastic thing to try though, thanks for adding that.
Might want to clarify that the Morels added to the bowl at serving need to be throughly cooked or you will give yourself and/or your guests SEVERE GI upset and likely make yourselves sensitive/allergic to morels.
Hi Kevin, you're absolutely right that fresh morels need to be thoroughly cooked. Have you had GI problems from eating dried morels?
Chef Bergo, No I haven't but I know several from the Arizona Mushroom Society that have had issues from undercooked or raw morels and couple of them have now become sensitive (or allergic) to them and can't eat them without Severe GI issues...
The costing doesn't add up for me. With no loss in serving my math says $320 gross at 4oz per serving. $45 COGS.
Apparently I'm a chef who cant write recipes or add correctly. At least my math was on the safe side of the food cost. Yeesh, and thank you.
No worry's. I'm not keeping track nor do I suspect that you follow your written recipes that carefully.
Exactly. At the restaurant, the quantities we make are much larger, and training my cooks to cook with intuition is much more productive than hovering over them trying to make sure they added a teaspoon of something vs a tablespoon. The trend for home cooking is much more like a "paint by numbers" approach, and many people expect to have every minute detail explained. I do my best though, maybe someday I'll have a copy editor, but it's unlikely.
This was amazing. I am so glad I stumbled across it.
What can I substitute in for the sherry or brandy non alcoholic?
Omit. You’ll be fine, but consider asking a neighbor for coffee glass of sherry next time.
What kind of white rice can I use? I have japanese short grain and jasmine rice, but wonder if they can alter the flavor.
Any white rice should be fine it’s just a binder en lieu of roux.
This is amazing. Thank you for sharing such a great recipe. Hot soup in the blender made mess of the kitchen, but switching to a stick blender did the trick.
Hey thanks Mary, sorry if the hot soup was an issue for you in the blender, I'm going to add a note about the handblender. I like the blender since it gets it really smooth but it can be tricky (and dangerous) if people don't know about how hot air works. Alan
Wow, just wow! This soup was delicious! I have never experience such mushroom flavor. I accidentally stumbled upon some dried morels at my local grocery store and have always been curious about morels. I think they were $7.95 for a half ounce. I kind of cut the recipe in half but maybe used 3 cups stock. I used immersion blender with fine results. I blended before swirling in the cream and it could have even been fine without cream if you are looking for a healthier version. Maybe just a dash of cream or half and half would be good. Also skipped the extra butter at the end--it was very rich already. And with a little crusty pandemic sourdough bread--what a meal! High quality fresh ground white pepper added complex level. question: could you use the same recipe with dried black trumpets? we have a good number of them in my area and thought this might be a good recipe for them. Thanks for the share!
You could definitely use black trumpets or other dried mushrooms here. High fat dairy like heavy cream is natural and good, as is natural butter. Processed foods are much more of something to worry about if you're on a "health kick". I don't cook with reduced fat dairy, and if you remove them from the recipe, it's no longer my recipe.
Ok that is fair! Don’t get me wrong I love the cream! I just tasted it before the cream and it was already delicious! Thanks for the recipe!
I don't usually comment but damn! That was the best bisque ever.
Glad it worked for you.
hey chef, does the alcohol in the brandy cook out? im using your recipe this weekend at my family gathering and my sister in law is pregnant. So i was just curious if the alcohol cooks out. Cheers! and i look forward to tasting it this weekend!
Yes it does. Sorry I was pokey here. Heat denatures alcohol.