Shrimp Bisque ~ it’s a little bit romantic, a little bit ladies who lunch, and it definitely has a 20th century vibe ~ but I think this richly flavored soup is ready for a comeback!
Seafood bisques are definitely of the last century, but that doesn’t mean we should let them languish there. These elegant soups have so much to offer, from their creamy texture and beautiful pale pink color to their supercharged flavors. And while lobster and crab might be too pricey for everyday, shrimp is easy to come by and plentiful.
A bisque is a creamy French shellfish soup, alot like a chowder, but fancier.
The bones of a good shrimp bisque are always the same no matter what recipe you go with ~ there’s shrimp, of course, aromatic veggies, stock, cream, tomato paste, brandy, sherry, and a bit of spice. It’s the little extra touches that distinguish one recipe from another, but you don’t want to stray too far from tradition, because that’s what makes this soup a classic. Here are a few of the ways famous chefs have put their own special spin on it~
- Emeril uses lots of fresh herbs to distinguish his bisque.
- Martha actually roasts and purees the shells right into her shrimp bisque ~ I wasn’t expecting that one, but it turns out this is the most authentic way to do it…leave it to Martha!
- Tyler freshens his up with orange zest.
- Paula tops her soup with crunchy homemade croutons.
This shrimp bisque owes some of its flavor to a from-scratch stock that’s made using the shrimp shells. The flavor is delicate and the color is beautiful . The cognac and sherry add that unmistakable restaurant flair to an already luxurious soup.
TIP: Shrimp bisque is rich, so serve it in smaller bowls, a little goes a long way.
My friend Sandy makes my beautiful soup bowls, read about her and see her work in my American Artisans post.
*This recipe is lightly adapted from Ina.
- 1 pound medium or large shrimp, shelled and deveined, reserve the shells
- 2 leeks
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup cognac or brandy
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- baby shrimp or chopped shrimp
- thyme leaves
- First make the stock ~ put 4 cups water in a pot, along with the shrimp shells and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the broth and add water if necessary to make 3 3/4 cups. Set aside.
- Slice the leeks and then rinse them thoroughly to remove any grit.
- Heat the oil in a soup pot and saute the leeks for 5 minutes until softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the cayenne and the shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are cooked, about 3 minutes.
- Add the cognac and cook for a minute, then the sherry, and cook for 3 more minutes.
- Puree the mixture, in 2 batches, in a food processor until it is coarsely pureed. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in the same pan and add the flour ~ cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Do not let it brown. Add the half and half and cook over medium heat until it is hot and thickened. Stir or whisk constantly.
- Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Season to taste, and serve in small bowls, garnished with fried leeks or chopped shrimp and thyme leaves.
- If you love seafood soups, there are lots more out there to try…Lobster Bisque is probably the most luxurious, but I have a soft spot for Crawfish Bisque, too.