At some point (soon, I hope, but y'all know I'm a liar) I'll teach you how to make a quick southern-style casserole out of things you already have in your kitchen. Won't that be fun? But first things first. What do you do when you don't have the "1 can cream of mushroom soup" your mother's recipe calls for?
Casserole is the best thing ever, a one-dish meal that feeds the whole family, freezes well, and makes excellent leftovers (if there are any). But I can already hear you whining,
"But casseroles all have canned SOUP. We don't EAT canned soup! It's bad for the CHILDREN!"
First of all, whatever. Quitcherbitchin'™ and get over yourself. You people who complain about canned soup have no problem letting your kids drink so-called sports drinks, chock full of high fructose corn syrup and red dye number whatever, and I've seen y'all shovel down Cheetos at a party like there's no tomorrow. Second of all, I'm sort of with you, because who the hell keeps canned soup in the pantry anymore? Making your own version is easy! Since it doesn't actually come in a can, in keeping with the grand tradition that is krab, let's call it "kanned." Here's mine:
DIY Kanned Cream of Mushroom Soup for Dummies
Makes 4-5 cups (about 4 "cans" of soup). Recipe can be halved easily.
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 shallots, minced
2 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, beef, lamb, whatever)
2 tablespoons powdered dried mushrooms
a healthy dash of Worcestershire Sauce (vegetarian if you prefer)
1/2 cup sherry, sweet white wine, marsala cooking wine, vermouth, or whatever you have open
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
Optional: dried or fresh thyme
Melt (but don't burn) butter in a saucepan, and whisk in flour until you have a paste. Stir in minced shallots and cook over low heat until soft. If the mix starts to stick to the pan or gets too thick to stir, add a splash of the stock you're about to use.
Add 2 cups stock and whisk again to make sure there are no lumps. Stir in dried mushroom powder, Worcestershire, and wine, and add salt and pepper to taste. (Italian or French seasoning salt works well if you have it.) If you have a couple tablespoons of fresh thyme or a couple shakes of dried, add that, too.
Simmer until mushrooms are incorporated, stirring occasionally.
Add cream, turn up the heat, and scald for two seconds.
Cool and serve, stirring in milk or stock to thin the soup if you like.
If you can't find powdered mushrooms in a store, make your own. They're great for seasoning other dishes, too. Buy dried mushrooms and use a food processor to turn them into a powder.
The richer your stock, the richer your soup. I made stock from a lamb bone recently and it made a heck of a soup.
You can use milk instead of cream, which will result in a thinner, but still delicious, soup.
As you may have guessed, you can skip the mushrooms and make this a cream-of-whatever's-in-your-broth soup. You can also add steamed and pureed broccoli, asparagus, or celery to make it whatever kind of cream soup you like.
So now you have a lovely soup, and you can certainly stop there. But maybe you'll serve it as part of a balanced supper tonight and save a can-sized scoop (about 10.75 ounces or slightly more than 1 1/4 cups) for tomorrow night's casserole. Or maybe you're wondering if you can freeze some for later. Well...
Q: Can you freeze cream soup?
A: I mean, sure, in that it will technically freeze. But you probably won't want to eat it as soup when it thaws, because it may separate and freezing can alter the flavor of dairy. But if you're freezing a portion to use in casserole later, you have my blessing. Thaw it in the fridge overnight and stir it really well before adding to your casserole mix. And don't come crying to me if it isn't perfect. It's just casserole.
As for the dried mushrooms, you can find them in most stores, but look to Asian markets for less expensive options. And any mix of mushrooms will do. I'm a fan of shiitake and oyster. Also, please feel free to make mom jokes on Instagram about how you smuggled 'shrooms on a plane from California. It'll (not) make your kids think you are cool (at all). Seriously though, dried mushrooms are a pantry staple, powdered or not, because they make a great addition to miso soup, beef stew, and pot roast. Just soak them ahead of time or add extra liquid to the slow cooker to compensate.
What other canned or packaged ingredients did your ancestors love that you prefer to make yourself? As much as I make fun of people who refuse to use canned or packaged foods for convenience, I usually find it easier to make things myself, because my pantry is small and I can't keep enough options in there. And I like options, dammit!