For me one of the best parts of a vigorous bike ride is the anticipation of a well-earned meal at its completion. I often reward myself with high calorie fare like a fried egg sandwich with mustard, mayo, and pickles. Mini pizzas on Greek pita, usually folded in half for a makeshift calzone, is another favorite. Or possibly a stop at my favorite greasy spoon diner, Al’s Breakfast. Often my sole motivation for a late-night ride is knowing that I’m going to want that 2am meal when I get back, so I might as well earn it.
In the summer it is idyllic to pack some food for a mid-ride break, often by the Mississippi or one of the countless parks and lakes here in Minneapolis. Some almonds, some kalamatas, and a can of Surly Bender…I feel like a king lounging in the shade of a tree, the river breeze at my back. I can almost hear Louis Armstrong playing somewhere off in the distance. Does life really get any better? Now, with the winter temperature in the low digits, I have become nostalgic for those bike picnics. While I do dress ridiculously warm in layers upon layers of flannels and other insulating gear, I still wouldn’t want to stop in the cold and eat a snack no matter how delicious. Yet growing in the back of my ever-food-thinking mind was a challenge. Well, the proverbial light bulb illuminated and the halo of angelic light framed a perfect bowl of mushroom consommé. Well, a thermos of mushroom consommé, anyhow.
What better pairing to a Minnesota winter than a perfectly simple, clear broth flavored by earthy aromatics offered by a simple mirepoix and forest mushrooms. Of course I would be straying from the usual plan by offering a zero calorie snack, and the health-conscious cyclist may relish this tasty fact, but I reconcile this by adding a little heavy cream (or better yet, crème fraiche.) Hallelujah. Imagine my pleasure in the sub-zero wind chill, aching muscles from the long, slow incline along the river from downtown to my north Minneapolis home. I stop, remove a thermos wrapped in a kitchen towel to insure its heat, uncap the top…a billow of steam rises into the air and the wonderful smell readies a smile on my face. Hot soup on the road, brilliant.
I never took the time to learn how to make a traditional consommé using egg whites to clarify the broth, figuring that passing the liquid through a fine strainer was good enough, but I recently heard of another technique to accomplish the same end called the ice filtration technique. Fits the winter theme, anyway, so I thought I’d give it a go. Essentially you freeze the broth and then let it thaw over a cheese cloth into a bowl. This process traps any residual bits of food and fat from a traditional meat-based consommé. With a simple, no-fat mushroom recipe I don’t know if it’d be necessary to go through the added step. But I like to play around with recipes, and I’ve successfully enriched the flavor by first sautéing the mirepoix and mushroom in olive oil. Now I have a little fat to clarify, and the ice filtration technique worked great. I’d even say it was fun, and hopefully if you’re reading a food blog such as this one you might understand what I mean.
Recipe for basic mushroom consommé:
1 lb wild mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
8 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
8 c. water
salt to taste
Boil everything together and simmer for 90 minutes. Salt to taste. Strain. Enjoy!
It’s just that magnificently easy, and it makes your house smell fantastic on a winter’s day. If you can’t find (or afford) good wild mushrooms you could substitute chicken or beef broth for the water, but try it this way first as it really puts the spotlight on the mushrooms. Even just crimini mushrooms make an affordable, tasty choice. For a quick meal borrow a few cups of the consommé and use it as the cooking liquid for a quinoa salad with a small bowl of consommé on the side. Last week I served it with a traditional Caesar salad and received compliments on the pairing. Makes a great breakfast soup to quickly reheat throughout the week, or serve with an Asian-themed entrée in lieu of the same old miso cup.
Benjamin Krikava lives in north Minneapolis with his family. After over a decade of restaurant work he has moved on to be employed in the medical field, now helping to prevent heart attacks rather than cause them. When he's not at work or on his bicycle you will find him in the kitchen drinking the rest of the bottle of wine that the recipe didn't call for. His last article for us was: Hashbrowns and Latkes.