I know January is when food magazines tell us we should be going on juice cleanses and eating lighter after the holidays, but we have been robbed of cool weather this season and I will not go quietly! Maybe it’s the native midwesterner in me that longs for cozy, cool nights cooking soup, but I can’t be the only one. It’s been a warm winter, and I’m still firmly in soup mode.
The coziest soup to me is a velvety shrimp bisque. Not difficult to make, but there are a few steps included. Making soup takes time and dedication, but the reward is so satisfying. And let us not forget that leftovers always taste better the next day or two! What exactly is a bisque anyway? Usually a bisque includes seafood like lobster or shrimp and cream. Bisques, as their name may suggest, are a French invention. Originally, lobster or crab shells were actually blended in to thicken the soup and impart extra flavor. Don’t be alarmed, that’s not happening in this recipe. After simmering the shrimp, I remove the cooked shrimp to be added later and get all the flavor possible out of the shrimp shells. This is a great way to get double duty out of whole lobsters or crabs as well. Think of it like using your turkey or chicken bones to make a flavorful stock. After creating the shrimp stock, some aromatic vegetables get cooked in butter with a little wine, cream and, surprisingly, rice for texture. This recipe is even gluten free because it doesn’t use a traditional roux as a thickener. To get the texture incredibly velvety, you’ll need a blender or better yet an immersion blender that you can put right into the soup pot. For a perfect winter dinner, serve with some toasted baguette and tuck in to this cozy meal.
Shrimp Bisque (serves 6-8)
2 pounds (uncooked shell-on shrimp)
8 cups water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Marsala wine, sherry or Madeira
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
1 large yellow sweet onion (diced)
2 medium carrots (diced)
3 stalks of celery (diced)
Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, cook shrimp in 8 cups of water for about 5 minutes or until just pink. Remove cooked shrimp with a slotted spoon. Do not throw out the cooking liquid. Once shrimp are cool enough to handle, reserve the cooked shrimp for later and put the shells back into the cooking liquid. Turn heat back up to medium high and cook for 30 minutes.
- In another pot, heat the butter to medium and cook the onion, celery and carrots for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Stir often. Add in the tomato paste. Then using a fine mesh strainer, pour the shrimp stock into the pot of vegetables. Make sure to use all the stock and discard the used shrimp shells.
- Add the Marsala wine, rice and cream. Cook for 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup to a very velvety consistency or use a blender. Be cautious using a blender with hot soup. You may need to cool it down a bit before blending and make sure to vent the lid of the blender a bit to allow steam to escape or blend in 2 batches.
- Return blended soup to the pot. Season with more salt and pepper and lemon juice.
- Chop the reserved cooked shrimp and add to the soup.
- Serve hot with a toasted crusty baguette.