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Shrimp Bisque

I used to think of shrimp bisque as a substitute while crawfish bisque was out of season. Then I found myself with a bunch of little shrimp, and thought I’d give it another look. Well, I was wrong about this thick soup. It just needed a different recipe. A roux-based stock is perfect for crawfish bisque, but shrimp bisque needs more delicacy–and cream. Shrimp also blends well with herbs, particularly those in the dill-basil-tarragon part of the flavor spectrum. This recipe uses more shrimp shells than actual shrimp. It will leave you about a pound of shrimp that you can use for salads, shrimp remoulade, or just snacking on while you cook.

  • Stock:
  • 3 lbs. medium head-on shrimp
  • 2 Tbs. salt-free Creole seasoning
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Leaves and tops from a bunch of celery
  • 1/2 small onion, cut up
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ripe red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp. chervil
  • 1/2 tsp. dill
  • 1 tsp. Louisiana hot pepper sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1. To make the stock, put the shrimp, Creole seasoning, and salt into a saucepan with 12 cups of water. Bring it up to a light boil, then lower to a bare simmer.

2. After six minutes, remove the shrimp and set aside to cool. Add the other stock ingredients and return to a simmer. Peel the shrimp. Reserve the meat, but return the shells to the stock. Continue to simmer the stock, uncovered, for 25 minutes more. Strain the stock and discard the solids.

3. While the stock is simmering, put the the bell pepper under a hot broiler, skin side up, until the skin is blackened here and there. Allow to cool, then peel the skin off.

4. Put the peppers and about half the shrimp meat into a food processor with about 1/4 cup of stock. Process into a rough puree.

5. Transfer the shrimp-pepper mixture to a saucepan over medium heat. Add the brandy and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Boil for a minute, stirring a little. Lower the heat and add the tarragon, chervil, and dill, plus the strained shrimp stock. Return to a simmer.

6. After five minutes, stir in the hot sauce and cream. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve topped with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and two or three whole shrimp tails.

Serves eight.