Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania State University

Forget the malls! Even natural and whole foods markets have become culinary zoos as shoppers compete for favorite organic goodies for their holiday tables. If you haven’t yet planned your Christmas or Hanukkah dinner, it’s time to grab your notepad and choreograph your kitchen moves.

Warm up your guests with an organic Mushroom Bisque. The recipe has been furnished by Ruth Bass, author of “Mushrooms Love Herbs.” In case this is your first visit to our blog, see yesterday’s entry: Bass’s distinctive recipe for Mushroom Salsa with Cilantro—a quick appetizer to whet guests’ appetites as you make last-minute dinner preparations. You’ll also find two of her salad recipes in our Winter Edition feature article Amazing Organic Herbal Salads.

This time, Bass uses shiitake mushrooms, which are readily available in most areas. When shopping for organic shiitakes, make sure their caps are firm and unwrinkled. You’ll also need fresh thyme and tarragon.

“Chopping wet herbs is a terrible business,” notes Bass. “They stick to your fingers, they stick to the cutting board, and they’re tough to measure. So if you have to wash them at the last minute, put them in a paper towel and squeeze hard. And remember to remove the stems from thyme.”

Mushroom Bisque

4-6 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound shiitakes, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon flour
3½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup half-and-half
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Low-fat sour cream (optional)

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and lemon juice, and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes. If the mushrooms begin to stick, add ¼ cup of the broth.
  2. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Do not brown the flour. Gradually whisk in the broth, which should be at room temperature or slightly warmed.
  3. When the mixture is smooth, add the mushroom mixture, thyme, tarragon and salt. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Puree the soup in a food processor or blender and then strain through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan, rubbing the solids through with a wooden spoon.
  5. Whisk the half-and-half and the egg yolk together in a bowl, and beat in about ½ cup of the hot soup. Add the mixture to the remaining soup and bring to a simmer, stirring. Do not boil.
  6. Add the wine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, adding a dollop of sour cream on top, if desired.

Note: This recipe is featured in “Mushrooms Love Herbs.” Copyright © 1996 by Storey Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Storey Publishing.