Bisques have always been a mystery to me. They are usually delicious but I’ve also had many bland bisques that lack flavor in restaurants that I expect more from. I thought it must be hard to make a really good bisque. So when I came across a recipe for shrimp bisque that seemed pretty simple, I thought there was no way it could be great. I’ve modified the original recipe to be gluten free and even more simple (who has time to deal with bouquet garni?) but it’s just as delicious as the original.
I also make the bisque with homemade beef or chicken broth, which adds to the flavor and the nutritional content. But, you can use water if you don’t have stock on hand. Next time you decide to have shrimp for dinner, save the shells to make this simple but impressive soup.
- Shells from 1 pound of medium to large shrimp (throw in the heads too if you’ve got them)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- 6 tablespoons butter, separated into groups of 2 and 4 tbsp
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 5-6 cups of broth or water
- 3 tablespoons brandy, marsala, or madeira
- 1/4 cup potato flour
- 2/3 cup whipping cream
- salt and pepper to taste
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pot. Add the shrimp shells and sauté over medium heat until the shells start to brown. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften.
Add the broth, lemon juice, tomato paste, bay leaves, and garlic. Bring the pot to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain the shrimp stock when the time is up.
In the original pot, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter and stir in the potato flour. Stir the mixture and cook over medium to low heat until it starts to brown. Add the brandy and about a third of the shrimp stock and whisk vigorously to mix in the flour. Slowly add a cup of stock at a time while whisking to ensure you mix all of the flour in thoroughly. You’ll be tempted to be lazy here and put all of the stock in at once. Don’t or you’ll end up with a lumpy bisque.
Cover and simmer the soup for another 5 minutes then taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Be generous with the salt as you’ll be adding cream which will mellow it out and because the salt will really bring out the savory flavor.
Add the cream, mix well, and serve hot with a sprinkle of fresh cracked pepper.