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Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt, and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until onions are soft and start to caramelize. Add the mushrooms and garlic and season with another generous pinch of salt and a crack of black pepper. Stir to coat well, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the sherry (or wine) and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated (about 2 minutes).
Add the chopped parsnips, broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, and bay leaves, if using. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Add the cream, and simmer an additional five minutes, then remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Remove the bay leaves and puree the soup using an immersion blender, or in batches in a standard blender. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, to taste.