My favorite soups are all, without question, the ones that came out of impromptu improvisation. I think soup, as a dish, is better suited to experimentation and discovery than any other, perhaps because the basic technique of making a soup is so simple and intuitive. It lets the improvisational cook follow her whim (I've a craving for sausage...), building flavor in seemingly strange ways (let's have some lemon here!), using up pantry leftovers (hi there, half-empty can of beans...) and bringing it all together in one wholly satisfying yet personal dish. That's how this soup happened. And even though it was built from my own idiosyncrasies, it turned out too good not to share (if I do say so myself!).
I picked up some lamb chorizo at the farmers' market a few weeks ago without the slightest idea of how I'd use it. It just sounded so yummy. I also had some shiitake mushrooms, gathered on a whim later that day at the grocery, and egged on by my husband, who is a opportunist when it comes to mushrooms.
Then I stood there in my kitchen, looking for a whim of a trail. It started with a big pot, and browning that lamb chorizo. I had a vague idea of tossing it with pasta, but then, crazy idea — what about adding mushrooms and making it into soup? In went the mushrooms, then a can of chickpeas, just to round it out. Some onion and garlic, and a box of beef broth later, and I had a new favorite soup.
I liked it so much I made it again the following week, and now I present it to you. You don't need lamb chorizo (although its meaty flavor is very, very good here) — pork chorizo would also be nice. The shiitake mushrooms sound a little unorthodox but together with the meat they turn this into an umami bomb of savory richness, kept from being overpowering by a final grace note of cider vinegar.
I have a little bowl of this stashed in the freezer, now, for emergencies; it's my kind of chili — savory, rich, brothy.
Chorizo Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms & ChickpeasServes 4
1/3 pound fresh lamb or pork chorizo
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, caps only, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
4 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove the chorizo from its casing and crumble it into the pot. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently to break up the pieces. When the meat is lightly browned, push it up against the sides of the pan and add the chopped shiitake mushrooms. Cook for 3 minutes without stirring, then flip them over and continue cooking. Cook for another few minutes or until the mushrooms are well-browned.
Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until they are softened.
At this point, you can pour off any extra chorizo fat, if you wish. (This will depend on the sausage; some will release a lot of fat — more than is desirable in a soup.)
Stir in the chickpeas and the beef broth. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the flavors are well mingled. Stir in the vinegar and taste. Add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve with fresh bread and a green salad.
(Images: Faith Durand)