superlatively-souper Recipes

balthazar’s cream of mushroom soup

A couple months ago, I briefly mentioned making a wild mushroom soup from Gourmet magazine that was, you know, good, but also, eh. But shame on me, really, because last year we found the perfect, best-ever, fail-proof, tastiest recipe so why did I fall for the shiny new thing? Isn’t that the point of all this trial-and-error, anyway? I’m always trying to catalogue Recipes That Work, also called Recipes to Share you know, the ones that you try and you think “This is it. This is everything I have ever wanted from a [insert beloved grub here],” even if yes, I know, most people probably do not share my fanaticism about beloved grub. Lemon cake? Done. Banana bread? Found that too. Easy-peasy rustic loaf? Yup, and hooray for that. Chocolate cookies so good, it may bring tears to your eyes? That’s for tomorrow, because I am a tease, and also because I think about them again, I might eat five. Best-ever mushroom soup? I will never doubt you again.

2 lbs, 1 oz of mushrooms

What was missing from the bland mushroom soup was bulk. So many varied soup recipes come down to a similar process: a sauté of onions, leeks or garlic and herbs, a pile of vegetables simmered in stock until soft, then pureed and topped with cream, grated cheese or a splash of booze or if you’re super-lucky, all three. But if you want to make it taste like more than watery vegetables, you’re going to need some volume. Balthazar’s cream of mushroom soup has over two pounds of sliced mushrooms with a relatively small volume of broth coaxing it gently into soup form — there’s nothing more worthy of your spoon. You might, ahem, even determine that it tastes so good, that no, you will not share it and will instead eat it standing over the pot, hungry husbands be damned, even when they catch your selfishness on film. But then again maybe not, as you’re probably a nicer person than me. One can only hope.

will not share

Balthazar Cream of Mushroom Soup
Adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook

1 ounce dried mushrooms (porcini, morels, or shitakes)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary
4 sprigs of sage
1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 pound white button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 pound shitake mushrooms stemmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
6 cups chicken stock or water
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Soak the dry mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water for 20 to 30 minutes, until plump.

2. Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter to remove grit and reserve, along with the reconstituted mushrooms, until needed.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium flame. Bundle the rosemary and sage together and tie with kitchen twine. When the oil is hot, add the herb bundle and sizzle for a few minutes on both sides to infuse the oil.

4. Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent but not brown.

5. Turn the flame to high and add the white mushrooms and shitakes.

6. Cook for 10 minutes, during which the mushrooms will give off their liquid (which should evaporate quickly due to the high heat) and deflate significantly. Stir occasionally.

7. Add the chicken stock and the dried mushrooms along with the soaking water.

8. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the herbs, then add the cream and butter. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot and keep at a very low simmer until ready to serve.

Deb adjustments: I used far less olive oil, replaced some of the chicken stock with beef, as I had it on hand and love mixing that flavor with mushrooms; half as much cream, preferring a more potent soup and thyme instead of rosemary, also due to personal preference.

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91 comments on balthazar’s cream of mushroom soup

  1. Okay…you cookie tease! The soup looks awesome btw…ANOTHER thing added to my list to cook in Houston. I’m not going to have enough days in the year with all the cooking blogs I’ve been reading (yes, Deb, I’ve strayed). Do you think you could substitute the cream for half/half or milk?

    Now, I’m going to sit in the corner and pout until I get the cookie recipe!

  2. HURRAY for mushroom soup! I am SO making it, my best ever Christmas gift was an immersion blender and I am addicted to it; your soup gives me another excuse to whir away. Actually, I adore finding those tried and true recipes, just like you. Thank you for sharing them; especially this most recent one.

    Happy New Year!

  3. So soup is my favorite food ever, and I’ve been dying for good mushroom soup since I quit working at the restaurant that made what was simply the best.mushroom.soup.ever. I will have to try this soon.

  4. Jenifer: one of my favorite substitutions ever is milk for half and half or cream… not because it works (much of the time it doesn’t, and I end up with a curdled mess), but because I am so enthusiastic about using it. My suggestion would be this: make a roux out of equal parts butter and flour (say 1tbsp butter to 1tbsp flour) and cook it under very gentle heat. Be careful not to brown it, just melt the butter and let it go for a few more minutes. Then slowly whisk in milk, being careful of lumps, and heat gently until the mixture thickens (a few minutes)… The ratio is 1 cup milk to each tbsp butter, or 1 cup to 0.5 tbsp to keep it from thickening too much. The roux helps keep the mixture from curdling. It’s the flour or the fat molecules interfereing with the protein and keeping it from denaturing? I can’t remember exactly which one does it or if it’s both. Alton Brown would know!

    Deb: yum! I was about to go home and make some mushroom risotto that I’ve been craving for about a week. It didn’t even occur to me to make soup, but this looks absolutely delicious! Mmmmmm

  5. deb

    Rachael – You absolutely rock. One of my hopes for this site was that if someone asked a question that I couldn’t answer, or could answer only partially, that I’d have the kind of smart readers who could fill in my blanks. Keep it coming!

    Jenifer – I noted that I cut the cream to half a cup, but I bet you could cut it even further, too. Cream is so heavy, I often find that just a couple tablespoons can help bring a soup together. Another idea would be to leave it out entirely, or just serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche on top.

  6. The Balthazar Cookbook is one of my favorites! It’s good to know that this soup recipe is so great. I have not tried it yet, but I have not been let down by anything I’ve made from it so far. A favorite is the recipe for their lentils with bacon. LOVE. I once made a very nice mushroom soup from Ruth Reichl’s book “Comfort Me With Apples.” Very woodsey and creamy. I’ll have to try this one to compare. Thank you so much.

  7. Yvo

    Wow, that looks amazing. I’m still eating mushroom gravy and um… *shamface* I’ve eaten a few spoonfuls alone, to my boyfriend’s horror. I am not so nice… I’d do the same and just eat it over the stove, he’d never know! He never goes in the kitchen! Muhahahahah! Lovely picture of you, btw. :)

  8. lee

    Were you cooking soup naked?!
    I say someone should take on the food blogosphere project of compiling the best recipe for the basics that we all make over and over. The other day I made disappointing brownies and thought “How can it be that I do not have one brownie recipe that just doesn’t fail me?”

  9. Years ago, there was an excellent restaurant in Reading, PA, owned by the Czarnecki family. They were reknown for their mushroom dishes and published a cookbook all about mushrooms. In Joe Czarnecki’s recipe for mushroom soup, he solved the thickness problem by reserving the mushroom stems He cooked then pureed them and added them back to the soup, which became thick and hearty. I have this cookbook, and I’ve made this soup before. It was excellent.

  10. Sounds delicious. I especially like the addition of the beef stock, for all the same reasons you do. For a little added textural interest, have you ever considered reserving some of the mushrooms before pureeing the soup, then returning them to the finished soup–maybe just spooning a few on top of each bowl? Or perhaps just one uncooked slice of white button mushroom floating in the middle of each bowl. Could be very nice visually–which we know is a big part of cooking and eating.

  11. deb

    Grant – That was indeed the No-Knead Bread. I made a loaf last week and we keep it sliced in the freezer for when we want it. However, we were hungry and lazy, so it was only half-toasted by the time it became our crouton.

    Tree – Thank you.

    Lee – No I was not naked! I was wearing a sketchy, ten-year old, spaghetti-strapped tank top and short yoga pants, as it is 65 freaking degrees in January, and about ten more in our top-floor apartment. I know Denver is miserable these day, but I have complete blizzard-envy.

    Alto2 – That sounds delicious! I am always torn about what to do with discarded mushroom stems. Lately, I’ve been trying to create a “stock bag” in the freezer, with vegetable odds and ends for when I make a batch, and the shitake stems are in there now. What kind of mushrooms does Czarnecki recommend?

    Terry B – I haven’t but I like the idea a lot. We went to the new Klee Brasserie in our neighborhood a few weeks ago (and again for New Years) and they make an awesome porcini bisque which, the first time we went, they topped with slightly cooked mousseron mushrooms. It was really great, as they’re small, cute and have a great porcini/cepe-like flavor.

  12. leigh

    So- I discovered you last week with one of those random Yahoo things that pop up on your home page (“Do you want to add Nascar Digest”? not) and have been hooked ever since. I’ve copied every recipe you’ve discussed. I’m eyeballing my cast iron dutch oven as a home for the No Knead Bread I’m planning to do this weekend. Now you’ve thrown in chocolate cookies and an obviously divine mushroom soup….. you’re wrecking my diet and I don’t care! :-)

  13. Stephanie

    I just started reading your blog last week (Tammi introduced me *waves*) and I think it’s safe to say that you have the best taste ever in food. And I say that because it seems to be almost exactly the same as mine. ;-) Last week I made the french onion soup and tonight I made the mushroom soup – and oh my god – I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. My family was literally licking their bowls clean and I had to make sure I hid some leftovers for myself before they gulped it all down. Now I know that when I’m looking for something out-of-this-world to eat, I never have to look farther than your blog! :D

  14. People always rave about chicken noodle soup being the comfort of all time but for me it’s mushroom soup. This looks so wonderful, rich but sometimes we need rich! I’m still making the no knead from time to time, I think sometimes I do it just to hear it sing but then the entire loaf is gone by the second meal, well OK there maybe some snacking slices in there also with this soup. Lovely.

  15. Thank you for such a glorious mushroom soup recipe (or the notification thereof)! I ran home and made this soup on the night of it’s posting to your blog! Deeeelicious!

  16. Ariane

    I’ll be bringing the soup to Thanksgiving Dinner for twelve at a friend’s home. Do you think doubling the recipe will make enough?
    I plan to make it the day before and gently heat it just before it’s needed. I’ll bring it just to the simmer and leave it there for a few minutes. Does this sound right?

  17. I just made this soup in preparation for Thanksgiving Dinner and it is tasty!!!
    I love the flavor of the sage and rosemary! It should be noted that I used soy milk instead of cream because this is going to be a kosher Thanksgiving… I think it came out great, though. So, if you are kosher or if you just want to be a little bit healthier, try soy milk.

  18. DD

    I just made this last weekend and it came out great! I did some of the same substitutions you did — thyme rather than rosemary, half as much oil, and half as much cream. I also did not puree the soup as my husband hates the consistency of pureed soup. It was a great fall dinner along with the quicker version of the no knead bread that mark bittman wrote about just last week.

  19. deb

    I think that doubling it should be just fine, tripling would play it extra-safe. (I don’t know how big your bowls are, but I know that once you try it, you’ll hope for leftovers!)

    Also:I know that the price of shiitakes can add up, especially if making a double or triple batch. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t swap at least half of them for creminis/brown mushrooms.

  20. Memomz1

    Made the soup last night and it is a winner. Only used 1/4 cup oil, all the cream, and a variety of dried mushrooms. Actually tastes like mushrooms! Prior to adding the creme, I removed half of the soup to freeze and will add the remaining creme once it is heated through.

  21. Tobey

    I just made this soup and it is delicious!! Thanks, Deb. I love how often this blog enlightens me to delicious, impressive recipe ideas that are super-easy… For this recipe I used skim milk instead of cream, but I didn’t skimp on the rich, locally made butter from the farmer’s market (which is also where I got the shitake mushrooms.) YUM!

  22. Debra

    I’ve been on quite a SmittenKitchen-recipe-cooking spree lately and I have to tell you, this is another winner. I made it with a couple of minor changes. Used dried thyme instead of fresh rosemary and sage. I also subsituted half and half for the cream. My husband thought it was a little heavy on the thyme so I may tone that down next time. It makes a nice big batch too. has been a favorite cooking website for a long time. But nowadays this is the one I check every day and always find inspiration. Thanks again.

  23. Brooke L

    I decided on this recipe after searching for something closest to what I had available in the house…and it’s delicious sounding description as well :)

    Because we were out of stock, I decided to add chorizo sausage for a little flavor. It was so delicious! Highly recommended.

  24. Erin R.

    Freaking awesome. I finally got a stick blender after wanting one for ages, and this marvelous soup was its maiden voyage. I used only about a tablespoon of oil, and half a cup of skim milk instead of cream. I also used less salt than the stated amount and never missed it. Delicious, flavorful and, if you don’t go nuts with the oil and cream, not terribly calorie-dense. I left mine slightly coarse as I love to chew up the little bits of mushroom, and I loved LOVED it. I can’t wait to have some for dinner tomorrow night after it has had a chance to settle in the fridge. After wading through many C of M recipies which used powdered milk, cream cheese and various other oddities, I am finally calling a halt. This is a perfect, rational, healthy, delectable cream of mushroom soup recipe. Thanks a mil, Deb.

    P.S. Your little boy is lovely, and what a truckload of hair!

  25. sarah

    I agree with everyone else that this soup is fantastic! The only unfortunate thing about it is the price of the mushrooms. I left out the dried mushroom step because I forgot to buy them, and next time I might try making it with mushroom broth. Perfect for a cold winter night.

  26. Jackie

    Somebody mentioned sour cream / creme fraiche…. here’s something to try: heat a cup of cream until warm, add a little salt and 1/8 cup buttermilk, and let it rest overnight wrapped in a warm (not hot) heating pad. Turns out a wonderful sour cream-like velvety smooth treat, perfect for dolloping soup or as a sauce for meats or other savories. The fresh sourness works a little like lemon juice, brightens heavy flavors.

  27. Holly

    Made this today. It’s a cold winter day in Utah and this soup was perfect! I served it to my husband with a crusty rosemary and olive oil bread. Mmmmmm! Thanks so much! I’ve been lurking for quite a while but just had to come out of the woodwork to thank you.

  28. jenniegirl

    This is “burbling” on the stove-my dad’s word for when soup is cooking!! Yum. I bought the stuff to make this a week ago, and the mushrooms have been staring me down as I’ve gotten Jimmy John’s 3 days in a row. I can’t believe it myself. SO tonight, we’re remembering what dinner is for a change…:) Smells and tastes great.

  29. Samantha

    I worked at a restaurant where they used evaporated skim milk as replacement for cream. It was quite stable under heat, no curdling action.

  30. pjpffaff

    i made this last night for some friends, one of whom was allergic to dairy, so i replaced the heavy cream in the recipe with ‘vegan double cream’ – made from blended tofu, vegetable oil and soy milk. sounds just wrong, right? but to my surprise it didn’t make the soup any less delicious! it seems not even soy milk and tofu can detract from the ferociously flavoursome combo of porcini and shitake mushrooms – thank goodness!

  31. Carole

    I just made it this evening. You’re probably wondering: “Soup?!? In this hot weather?”. De*Li*Cious. I omitted the cream altogether for a lighter version, and used a mixture of fresh brown/oyster/shitake mushrooms along with the white. It’s perfect, fills you up, and it’s not heavy. I can’t wait to make another batch in the fall!

  32. my mum is allergic to mushrooms so whenever she leaves the house to me i hustle every single mushroom within the city’s radius and make something delicious and polluted with the deliciousness that is mushies!

    was thinking of making portobello burgers for this round but this recipe just sounds all too enticing.

    blog love :)

  33. Jamin

    I made this delicious soup tonight… Used Veg. Broth and No Cream and it still turned out great – I did add a little sherry as well. Yumma! Thanks for posting, as always…

  34. Hannah

    Very nice! Replaced the 1 cup heavy cream with 1 cup low-fat evaporated milk to make it a bit lighter and the chicken broth with vegetable stock to make it vegetarian. My boyfriend was incredulous as to how many mushrooms went into the pot and LOVED what came out. Thanks!

  35. annabanana

    Ours didn’t quite look that way. And we didn’t like it so much. I don’t know if we messed something up. Oh. well. I do love the way you write so excitedly about food. It matches up to some of my own passions. I also loved the apple latkehs you made Channukah. Superb! Just my two cents.

  36. PoniesPonies

    Just made this tonight. So lovely! Meaty and Creamy. I used Debs suggestion of less olive oil, 1/2 cream, beef broth, but kept the rosemary and sage. I also used truffle salt, though it may or may not have made a discernible difference. Speaking to comments above, I could see how a slug of sherry or marsala would have been a nice addition. My first impression of the soup when done, was that it needed something (possibly sherry or marsala, neither of which I had on hand) but I think that in the end that something was sitting on the stove more. The 2nd bowl was improved and tomorrows soup will be even more delicious.

  37. Rachel

    I just made the soup and it has a lovely flavor – but it’s rather watery/thin. Any suggestions for thickening it up easily and without many elaborate steps? Thanks!

  38. Ella

    The only dried mushrooms in my local corner market were Chilean mushrooms. Can I use these or will the flavor be bad? Can’t wait to make this, yay! Thanks Deb!

  39. Just made this in prep for Mother’s Day… I cannot stop dipping my spoon into it. I deglazed with some Marsala after the mushroom liquid had evaporated, which added a lovely background note. Next up, Quiche Lorraine! All I will have to do Sunday is toss a green salad and pop the bubbly.

  40. Kelly

    I made this last night and it was very delicious. I just ate the last bowl of it for lunch today with some chewy sesame bread. So yummy. Thank you for sharing!

  41. Emilie

    A question about cream. I have often seen heavy cream as an ingredient. I assumed it was the same thing as whipping cream, which his the “heaviest” fat-wise, at 35%. But then I saw a recipe in my book that called for heavy cream in a cake, and then whipping cream in the frosting, leading me to believe they are not the same thing at all. I have searched my grocery store high and low looking for heavy cream, and I can’t find any. Would you please be able to tell me what it is?

    1. deb

      Emilie — You can usually use them interchangeably. Both whip! It’s often just the difference of a couple percentage points of butterfat.

  42. Tom

    Mmmmm, mushroom soup – up there with pumpkin in ‘Greatest Soup of All Time’ surely? I wonder does this recipe come out too badly if you just bung everything in the pot together and simmer till the mushrooms et al are cooked? This is how my Mum makes hers and it’s always super tasty! Might be an option if you’re really in a rush…?

  43. Mommela

    I’m with Vanessa, what’s the yield on this? I’ve got to make a “teacher appreciation” soup on Friday and need to know if I should double this dreamy-looking recipe or not. Thanks!

  44. Amanda

    So, I just made this for the first time (I see that I’m about 4 years late, but better late then never, no?) and boy is it delicious! I’m vegetarian, so I opted for veggie broth instead of chicken or beef and found that as a result, I needed to add a touch more salt, but nothing major. I also added about 50% more cream because I needed to have a higher yield. But heres the thing… I only blended up about 75% of the soup, and mixed it in with the unblended stuff to serve. It made for a few delightful chunks – I highly recommend it!

    Thank you so much for such a delightful blog! I am forever checking what you’re making and happily emulating!

  45. johanne

    Well, so far I have made 4 of your recipes this week…Potato Leek Soup, Crispy Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies, your Mom’s Chocolate Chip Meringues and today, the Baltazaar Cream of Mushroom Soup…I am in love with your website…these recipes are truly delectable…Thank you for sharing!

  46. Jan

    This is a terrific recipe. I made it last night, using most of your suggestions (less oil, half the cream), and a wide variety of mushrooms. I cheated and subbed dried sage and rosemary. True comfort food on a chilly fall day.

  47. Isabella

    Hi! I was wondering about removing the mushroom stems… it’s not mentioned in the recipe but seems to be taken for granted in the comments section – is this really necessary and why? Do they taste all that different from the buds?

    Thanks for a yummy looking recipe!

  48. deb

    Hi Isabella — It will depend on the mushroom. If white or cremeni, no reason not to use the stem, though it might take a few extra minutes cooking time. The shiitake stems are very tough and rope-like. They may not be as pleasant in the soup.

  49. Lauren

    I made this soup tonight. It was delicious! Even my husband, who doesn’t like soup, raved about it! I used rosemary, sage & thyme. I added black pepper as well & 1/2 cup of sherry before I added the mushrooms. Also I used Cremini mushrooms instead of button mushrooms. Yummy! I will be making this again, but I will half the recipe because it is a LOT for 2 ????

  50. Ama

    My family is not very keen on mushrooms but this soup made them go ooohhh!!! aaahhh!!! mmmm!!!! I made this soup last night with portobello mushrooms only and added some pine nuts, and deleted the cream and the cream, but added fresh goat’s milk.
    It was the best soup I have tried, and so comforting… loved the earthiness and tender taste of the herbs and the mushroom combination!

    You are my hero!!!

  51. Jacquelene

    Delish!!! Made it twice now, and expect it to show up at dinner for a long time to come. Since we keep kosher, we omit the beef broth and split the 6 cups between organic vegetable broth and mushroom stock – and a hand emulsifier is soooo much easier than a blender: worth the purchase if you don’t already have one. Thanks for the new “family recipe!”

  52. Gina

    Omg! This soup is amazing! This is a keeper for the family recipe book. I sautéed the mushrooms in cooking sherry first, and then reduced and added broth – no one is waiting for the dinner table, but scooping cups off the stove top! Yummmm thank you!

    1. deb

      It will still come out well without them. They’re less about adding more mushroom bulk and more about adding a deep flavor. You’ll have great flavor either way.

  53. Gaylaroo

    Such a yummy recipe! I made it today, but started with rendering Bacon in the pot, using the bacon fat to sweat the onions, and reserving the bacon for a topping at the end. Very Very Yummy! Thanks.

  54. Great recipe. I”v found only a couple that can come close to it. IT’S the best. I also like crusty bread with most any soup. I would appreciate the name of the bread shone in the recipe or where it can be purchased. Thanks, Johnny

  55. Hunter

    Great recipe. Sooo good. So much umami goodness. My one-year old can’t get enough of it even! I used the olive oil and cream amounts called for and IMO it wasn’t too heavy or thick. I also followed the suggestion to use 1/2 beef stock abs 1/2 chicken (Better Than Bullion). One change I made was I took out only half of the volume and blended it. That way I had lots of intact mushrooms, onions, and garlic in the smooth and creamy mushroom blend.

    @pandaxpress, I used fresh shiitake and brown mushrooms (1 lb and 2 lbs respectively), no dried ones.

  56. Tunie

    The best mushroom soup I’ve ever had was one made by an obscure relative from Poland. She used dried Polish mushrooms so redolent that smelling them straight out of the bag alone made your mouth water! They should be easy to find in NYC…!

  57. Any advice on using fresh porcini with this? I’m stuck with what to do and I want to highlight them given how infrequently I can find them and how expensive they are. Many recipes for porcini are for saucifying it for a pasta- but this soup looks incredible. Do you know the dried>>fresh mass equivalent? I have nearly a pound of porcini… OR any other recipe you’d suggest instead? Really appreciate your wise advice!

  58. Cynthia

    I just made this, used all shitake mushrooms and Italian porcini stock (with a little chicken stock), and half and half. Also used a bit of thyme. It is good, {I think, I can never tell after smelling it so long} so should be even better tomorrow after a night in the fridge. Oh, I also used sea salt with black truffle to season, love truffle with mushrooms.

  59. judy deckling

    I just made this soup only substituting beef stock for chicken. It…..was…..OUTSTANDING! I used the shitake mushrooms stem and all. After a whiz in my ninja blender there was no discernable woody stems to speak of. It is so hardy, woodsy-tasting, and beefy. Yummy!

  60. Prudence

    Just used this to make a luscious soup on a sub-zero January day in the Upper Midwest. Highly recommended! When I saw the beef broth substitution suggestion, the lightbulb went on to use some of the pheasant stock I had in the fridge post-Christmas. If you have game bird leftovers, I’d recommend using their stock, too. Also, I like mushroom bits in the finished soup, so set aside perhaps 1/3 of a pound of the fresh mushrooms to slice, saut, and also added about 1/2 cup of dry sherry at the end. Lots of ways to customize. Thanks for the original!

  61. Lara

    Absolutely delicious even after I bungled some of the instructions (less oil, when to remove the herbs). This soup makes me seem like a much better cook than I really am.

  62. Lisha

    I have made this soup about once a year since you first published it (varying herbs and types of mushrooms, but always superb!). Today is the day for 2016 and I cannot wait for dinner to be here…

  63. Marlys

    this recipe is excellent and unfussy. i’ll make it again!
    added a parmesan rind and few drops of worcestershire sauce to my porcini juice/chicken stock broth.