I enjoyed this lovely soup at the Worcester Museum of Art, in Massachusetts. Their café is a lovely place for lunch and their signature Pear and Wild Mushroom Soup is a must try it. It just stood out, so how could I not try it? Oh, I’m so happy I did, because it’s absolutely delicious. And is the inspiration for this lovely elixir.Before we move on to our bisque, I want to mention the Worcester Museum of Art (WAM). If you’re in the area, you must go. It’s a small museum, but they have some lovely pieces, including the stunning “The Last Judgement”, an early 16th-century Flemish, 26-foot-wide by 12-foot-high, wool and silk tapestry. It has been conserved and is back on display. It is spectacular. The Museum has wisely placed benches, so you can sit with the piece. Experience the piece. Enjoy the piece. They also have a great collection of armor, as well as a fine collection of paintings and sculpture. Do go and spend time there. And have lunch in their café, if it’s open.
Back to our soup. This soup is a wonderful combination of flavors. Unexpected flavors, one might say. It’s an autumn soup, when beautiful pears are at their peak. However, it can be a lovely surprise in spring, as well. Parsnips and pears are a terrific combination, any time of the year. The Worcester Museums of Art’s version was absolutely wonderful, with the added mushrooms, offering a savory balance for the sweetness of the pears.
I decided to truly embrace all that is autumn and add parsnips to the mix, omitting the mushrooms. Adding both lemon juice and lemon zest tempers the sweetness and compliments both the pears and the bleu cheese. When I serve this, a simple garnish of additional bleu cheese and toasted pecans or walnuts, is lovely. Or a croûte topped with homemade (or purchased) tapenade. Either way, it’s a delicious little bisque. But, I decided to truly embrace all that is autumn and add parsnips to the mix, omitting the mushrooms. Adding both lemon juice and lemon zest tempers the sweetness and compliments both the pears and the bleu cheese. When I serve this, a simple garnish of additional bleu cheese and toasted pecans or walnuts, is lovely. Or a croûte topped with homemade (or purchased) tapenade. Either way, it’s a delicious little bisque.
Parsnip-Pear Bisque with Bleu Cheese
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 medium celery rib, very finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3-4 cups broth (or water, as needed)
- 1 potato, peeled and diced (optional)
- 2 large pears, peeled and diced
- 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
- 2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese (or gorgonzola)
- Toasted pecans (optional)
- Olive Tapenade (optional)
Place the butter, parsnips, onion, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Place over moderately low heat, cover and sweat the vegetables, until the onion and celery are tender, about 4-6 minutes. The vegetables should not brown. Add enough broth or water (or both), to cover the vegetables by about 1/2-inch. Raise the heat and bring to the boil; lower the heat and simmer until the parsnips are falling-apart tender. Add the potato and pear; simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the lemon juice, salt and nutmeg. Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems; the thyme leaves will have fallen off. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture until smooth, adding extra broth or water until desired consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve piping hot, with crumbled bleu cheese and toasted pecans (or walnuts) over each bowl. Or float a tapenade topped croûte in each bowl.