The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Classic Shrimp Bisque

Classic Shrimp BisqueSome years ago, I attended a lovely luncheon given for a friend’s birthday. The hostess laid tables on beautiful linens with her best silver and crystal and magnificent flowers. All the ladies in attendance were dressed in their spring best. It was a very sophisticated event that made me feel like a true grown-up in the best possible way. The first course was a fresh shrimp bisque, served in antique soup cups, and given the occasion and surroundings it seemed like an impossibly chic dish. The hostess told me that her grandmother used to serve shrimp bisque at luncheons, and though she had tried to duplicate that version, she just had to take shortcuts, using bottled and boxed stocks. Ever since, I have wanted to make a refined shrimp bisque from start-to-finish, but just didn’t have the patience.

For a good shrimp bisque, you need to use shrimp shells to produce a rich stock that creates layers of flavor. But peeling shrimp is a kitchen task I just hate. I can’t explain why, it is hardly the worst kitchen task, and many people I know do it without thinking. I simply do not like it. You can buy raw, peeled shrimp, of course, but then you don’t get the shells. I recently discovered, however, that the fish counter at a good market will peel and devein shrimp for you, and if you ask, they’ll save the shells for you. I should have figured this out years ago, but there you go. I soon went to work on a shrimp bisque recipe and this is where I landed.

The pale pink you and delicate shrimp flavor make this a sophisticated dish for entertaining, ladies luncheon or grown-up dinner party. And curled, blushing shrimp balanced on the top of the soup make a beautiful presentation. But I also find this a comforting soup meal, with some crusty bread or corn muffins.

Classic Shrimp Bisque
Serves 6
Print
For the Stock
  1. 1 ½ pounds shrimp
  2. 3 celery stalks
  3. 1 carrot
  4. ½ yellow onion
  5. 3 gloves garlic
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 3 sprigs of marjoram or thyme
  8. ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  9. ½ teaspoon salt
For the Bisque
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. ½ yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 celery stalk, diced
  4. 1 carrot, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 3 cups shrimp stock
  7. Reserved shrimp meat
  8. ½ cup cognac
  9. 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  10. ¼ cup butter
  11. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  12. ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  13. 2 cups whole milk
  14. salt to taste
For the stock
  1. Shell and devein the shrimp. Place the shells and 4 of the shrimp in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Return the remaining shrimp meat to the refrigerator. Add the remaining ingredients into the pot, then pour over 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Place a strainer over a bowl and strain the stock through it. Discard the solids. Rinse and wipe out the pot and the strainer, then line the strainer with a piece of damp cheesecloth or a thin tea towel. Pour the stock back through the strainer into the pot and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the stock is reduced by about ¼ and it is very fragrant. Pour the stock into a clean bowl or 4 – cup measuring cup. You should have at least 3 cups of stock. You can make this a few hours ahead of time if you’d like.
For the Bisque
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are soft and the onions are glossy. Add the reserved shrimp meat to the pot and cook, stirring, until the shrimp begin to turn pink. Pour in the cognac and bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are completely cooked and the cognac has boiled away. Reserve 6 whole shrimp for serving. Place the remaining shrimp and vegetables in the bowl of a food processor. Add the tomato paste and ½ teaspoon salt and puree to a rough paste. Slowly add 2 cups of the shrimp stock until you have a smooth paste.
  2. Thoroughly clean the soup pot, making sure to wipe out any dark or brown residue. Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat, then whisk in the flour and the paprika until smooth. Cook until the paste is thick and completely smooth, then add the milk, stirring constantly until it is thickened and smooth. Scrape in the shrimp puree and stir well to combine. Add the remaining 1 cup of shrimp stock and stir until heated through. If you prefer, you can use an immersion blender to give the soup some extra smoothness, or push it through a strainer.
  3. Season with salt to taste and serve with the remaining cooked shrimp.
Notes
  1. Ask the fish counter at your local high end or natural market if they will clean the shrimp for you and save you the shells.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

1 comment to Classic Shrimp Bisque

  • Dee Anne

    I made this over the weekend, thinking it would take a really long time and be complicated. It came together much easier and cleaner than I thought it would and man o man was it so worth it! Served with a simple green salad with the pecan salad dressing from this site and some good rolls. Everyone licked their spoons, bowls, fingers and asked for more! The fish counter at Whole Foods had lots of shells to offer when I explained to the fishmonger what I was making.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>