Recently, Kim and I had the great pleasure of meeting one of our mutually favorite photographers: Eugene Kan. As luck has it, he also works with food in his partner’s company, That Food Cray. Check them out on Instagram guys, they’re exploring food like no one else and bringing local food crafts people together from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.
Anyways, as this relates to the post, Eugene followed up with us on our Contact Page, where he submitted his favorite childhood dish:
Campbell’s Chunky Soup with Rice
I was kind of stunned by this answer, as it’s a combination I’ve never heard of before. However, a friend of mine quickly confirmed it as one of his own favorite childhood dishes as well.
Man, what am I missing out on???
While I’ll no longer crack open a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup, for every health reason in the book, I’m all about recreating this nostalgic delicacy into something I can savor too. But before we do that, we gotta look at what makes Campbell’s Chunky Soup do its magical Voodoo.
Well, first off, it’s chunky. The variety I’m mimicking today is the Steak & Potato type, which – you guessed it – has big ‘ole chunks of steak and potato. The broth in which chunks of meat and vegetables are suspended in is more like a gravy than beef stock. The liquid also has tomato in it, which adds depth of flavor and a little sweetness.
Now, to replace the beef I went with my favorite chewy, umami packed veggie: portobello mushrooms. Before adding to the soup, they’re cut into massively large chunks (they shrink to about 2/3 of their original size), tossed with olive oil and sea salt, and roasted at 500° F until they’re golden brown on the outside. The process in which foods brown and caramelize is known as the Maillard reaction, in which amino acids (proteins) and sugars transform on a chemical level due to being exposed to large amounts of heat.
The flavor difference between simply tossing the mushrooms into the soup raw and roasting them in the oven beforehand is paramount. To make the flavors even deeper, we apply the same Maillard reaction to red onions, slowly caramelizing them over medium heat, which takes away their harsh bite and makes them sweeter.
In place of potatoes we go with my favorite spud replacement: the Hannah sweet potato, a.k.a. a white sweet potato. Hannah sweet potatoes are starchier than Garnet or Jewel varieties (i.e. orange ones), thus they’re less mushy than orange ones.
As for the gravy-like liquid in which all of this is to be suspended in, I chose to use a base of mushroom broth, which – like beef broth – is rich & deep in flavor. To thicken it up, a little bit of tapioca or arrowroot starch does the trick. And while we could add tomato paste to this – I’ve got no beef with peeled & deseeded tomato flesh – I think we can achieve the same sweetness and depth of flavor elsewhere in this dish…
Sayyyyyy red wine, why don’t you come over! This will compliment the mushrooms and caramelized onions beautifully, and the acid in which will help bring to life some novel subtleties here.
While this is not a dish I would’ve ever thought up on my own, I’m happy that someone out there brought it to my attention, because this soup is hearty, soulful, rich, ever so slightly fancy, and perfect for a cold Winter’s night.
Once again, thanks for the recommendation, Eugene! If there’s a dish you’ve always wanted to see transformed to fit your modern way of eating, submit it here and we’ll do our best to recreate it.
Ryan & Kim
Chunky Portobello Soup
An homage to Campbell's Chunky Steak & Potato Soup. Roasted portobello mushroom dances in a thick, red wine, caramelized onion sauce with tender chunks of hannah sweet potato & carrots. Serve with white rice for an easy, soulful meal for two.
- 2 2/3 c mushroom broth
- 1/3 c red wine (I recommend a Cabarnet or Malbec)
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 large portobello caps, cut into roughly 2 inch chunks
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half & thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, chopped into medium chunks
- 1/4 large hannah or white sweet potato, cut into medium chunks
- 2 tsp tapioca or arrowroot starch
- 1 tsp salt divided
- 1/4 tsp each oregano, garlic powder, and paprika
- White Jasmine Rice (follow directions in link for resistant starch rice)
- Fresh chives
- Pre-heat oven to 500° F. Toss portobello chunks with 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt until evenly coated.
- Transfer to a cookie sheet and roast, stirring halfway through, until golden brown on exterior; 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
- While the mushrooms cook, heat a large high-walled saute pan or soup pot over medium heat. To that, add onions, 1 tbsp of olive oil, and 1/2 tsp salt.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are greatly reduced in size and light brown in color; about 20 minutes. If they begin to burn before they’re deeply caramelized, reduce heat to medium-low.
- While onions cook, shake together mushroom broth and tapioca starch in an airtight container until no lumps of starch remain. Set aside.
- When onions are finished caramelizing, add in red wine and scare the bottom of the pan with a spatula or metal tongs to remove any stuck-on solids. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until most of the wine has evaporated.
- Add in mushroom broth slurry, carrot, sweet potato, mushroom chunks, oregano, garlic powder, and paprika. Turn heat to high, stir to combine, and bring to a light boil.
- Drop heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and cook until carrots and sweet potato are tender – about 25 minutes.
- Finish off with balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Taste, and all more salt if desired.
- Serve while fresh with white rice! Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a medium pot over medium heat until bubbly; about 5 minutes.