Scallop & Mushroom Bisque with Watercress

Kids fishing from the jetty at Barnegat Light, NJ
Seattle friends will be surprised to hear that I haven’t featured the ever-popular Beef Burgundy Soup at ANY of our Soup Parties since 2004. The California Soupers haven’t tasted the soup that was voted #1 favorite at our Woodinville events. And do you want to know why? It’s because I spend [literally] MONTHS making stocks, carefully choosing a good mix of soup variations to accommodate people who do and do not eat meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and vegetables. At the party, everybody would immediately dash to the Beef Burgundy Soup, which is a VERY rich and filling soup, and go back for seconds (or thirds!) and then wouldn’t have enough room to taste any of the other 11 types of soups that I’d spent ~ did I mention? ~ MONTHS making. I simply don’t want to deprive our guests of a sensational tasting experience. So now I switch up the menu to provide new samplings every year. And the Beef Burgundy never seems to make it to the list….. Believe me? Ha!!

The reason that I mention the Beef Burgundy Soup in a post about Scallop and Mushroom Bisque is to make the point that everyone seems to have their favorites, and they look forward to having those every year. My #1 favorite used to be the Scallop and Mushroom Bisque. It’s still ONE of my top favorites, and when my friend Deloris Gantner called and asked for the recipe, I figured that I’d feature it today. It’s also one of the soups that people consistently request. Chances are that I’ll remove it from the menu from time to time and risk a riot like the one that occurred in Woodinville in 2005 when I decided not to make the Beef Burgundy Soup.

I made this Bisque for the first Thanksgiving in my cute little carriage house in Summit NJ in 1996. The recipe is from a cookbook that I picked up in Cape May, a lovely beach community at the southernmost point of the Jersey Shore. It’s from The Washington Inn (“350 Favorite Recipes from Cape May’s Premier Restaurant”). If you’re going to make this, I recommend using the large sea scallops and cutting them into fourths. They are more tender than the smaller bay scallops. My Mom gets fresh scallops right off the scallop boats in Barnegat Light, where my parents have a beach house close to the marina in High Bar Harbor. They bought the house more than 30 years ago, and our family has made many happy memories there. And Jersey Scallops are the BEST!!

This soup is neither low-fat nor dairy-free, and I recommend using butter. It is simply delicious!

Scallop & Mushroom Bisque with Watercress
from The Washington Inn Cooks for Friends
Serves 8

11 tablespoons butter (separated: 3 + 8 T)
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
3 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 pounds fresh scallops, muscle removed and cleaned well
½ cup onions, diced
½ cup flour
1 cup dry white wine (I use an un-oaked Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc)
4 cups seafood stock or clam juice (see *note that follows)
1 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper for seasoning
1 cup fresh watercress, chopped

1. Over medium heat, sauté garlic, mushrooms and scallops in 3 tablespoons butter. Cook for 10 minutes. Strain out the scallops and mushrooms and set aside. Set the broth aside separately.

2. In the same pan, sauté the onions in the remaining 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir well. Cook for a few minutes until a nice paste forms. It’s really thick at first, but be patient and the roux will get to the right texture.

3. To the roux, add the white wine, reserved strained broth, and seafood stock or clam juice. Whisk mixture until it is thick and smooth. Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Strain the thickened broth. Insidertip: If making ahead, store the broth covered in the refrigerator, and the cooked scallops and mushrooms in a separate container. Before continuing, reheat the broth to simmering before continuing.

5. Add the scallops and mushrooms back into the thickened broth. Add the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Add watercress, and serve.

* Note * Seafood Stock and a substitute:
To make your own seafood stock, in a large stock pot bring 3 Tablespoons oil (I recommend grape see oil), 4 cups rinsed and drained seafood shells (shrimp shells are fine), 3 onions, 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, all chopped and 8 cups cold water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Strain, pressing the shells to extract any remaining liquid. Let the stock cool, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Substitute for Homemade stock:
For this recipe, you can use bottled clam juice as a substitute for seafood stock. To enhance the flavor, cut in half with water, add some dry white wine or dry vermouth, then simmer with chopped onion and a bay leaf for a few minutes. Strain before using.

Insidertip: I recommend serving a California Chardonnay with this soup.

Enjoy the accolades that you are guaranteed to get when you serve this soup!!


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