Mushroom Broth for Spring Soups & Noodles
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“These kids are just so knowledgeable about food,” shares Shelburne Farms Executive Chef John Patterson, “even more than I was when I was twice their age and cooking professionally! I don’t know if it’s because they grew up in Vermont, and they have so much opportunity to learn about food here, but I was really impressed.”
Over the course of the winter, Chef Patterson and Shelburne Farms Educator Hannah Corbin supported a group of Shelburne Community School students in competing in the 15th annual Jr Iron Chef VT program. Hours were spent cooking together in preparation for the fast-paced cooking challenge held on March 11 at the Champlain Valley Expo, where they executed their recipe, Mushroom Broth Ramen, in under 90 minutes. But, as Chef John notes, the kids weren’t starting from scratch.
Watch the event — WCAX followed the Shelburne team during the day of the competition.
“I think the fact they were super enthusiastic to start was great, but from one week to the next, you could see them growing,” shares Chef Patterson. “I’m a big believer in teaching the thought process. I didn’t want to spend all of our time learning how to cook this one recipe, I wanted to teach them how to think like a chef and leave with tips to use at home cooking with their family.”
Food systems education — connecting students to where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their communities at large — is a huge part of our work at Shelburne Farms. And just like meeting a farmer in person, or digging in the soil to unearth a crop of potatoes, hands-on learning in the kitchen deepens a student's relationship with food and broadens their perspective of what’s possible. As student team member Kathryn Lewis said, “I think it’s really cool to experience [cooking] as if I wanted it to be a future career.”
Do a little food exploration of your own, and make the team’s Mushroom Broth they developed for their Mushroom Ramen recipe, the flavorful core of the dish that can be used for a variety of spring soups. If you’re looking for a weekend project, you can recreate the entire dish with the full recipes (including homemade noodles, jammy eggs, and all the veggie toppings).
Yield: About four quarts of broth
- 1⁄2 lb white button mushrooms
- 1⁄2 lb cremini mushrooms
- 1⁄2 lb shiitake mushrooms
- 1⁄4 lb dried mushrooms
- 1 shallot, peeled and halved
- 1⁄2 medium red onion, halved*
- 1⁄2 leek, halved*
- 1/2 head of garlic, halved*
- 1 8–10” piece of kombu
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 Tbsp canola oil
- 1⁄4 cup Diamond Brand Kosher Salt
- 4 qt water
- 3⁄4 cup tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
*If you’re making the full dish, reserve the other half of these items for the garnish and garlic oil.
Prepare the Mushroom Broth
- Place a heavy bottom pot large enough to hold 6 quarts over medium high heat.
- Add the canola oil with the onion, leek, garlic and fresh mushrooms. Do not add the dry mushrooms at this point! Continue to cook, stirring regularly to ensure that all items are beginning to soften.
- Once the aroma of the mushrooms begins to develop, add the salt and stir to incorporate evenly. Add the thyme and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. At this point, the vegetables should have caramelized allowing the roasted aromas of the mushrooms to develop.
- Add the 4 qts of water and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the dried mushrooms. Think of it as tea; you’re basically steeping them to create a richer, deeper broth. Continue to cook for 20 minutes (the broth should be at a rolling simmer). Turn the heat off and add the kombu to steep for approximately 10 minutes.
- Strain the stock. Using a small ladle, skim the excess fat (from the canola oil) from the stock.
- Add the tamari and rice vinegar and adjust the seasoning as needed.
In 2008, Burlington School Food Project and Vermont FEED—our farm to school partnership with NOFA-VT— created Jr Iron Chef VT to help kids experience the power of food and recognize their potential as food system changemakers. In 2021, Vermont Afterschool took on overall management and hosting of the competition. Although we no longer manage the program, we support the great tradition of Jr. Iron Chef VT and the meaning it brings to so many. Read more about the history of the program.
Photos by Sarah Webb