A throwback to 1960′s elegant sit-down dinners where suburban moms in Hepburn like attire tried hard to impress guests… Or at least that was the impression I always had of shrimp bisque. Erase that. It’s really easy to make, rather luxurious and a brilliant way to wake your taste buds. Now that I know it’s such a breeze to do, it will feature more frequently in our holiday or special dinners at home.
I didn’t measure very closely, but here is essentially what I did. We bought 2 kilos of medium sized suahe or white shrimp. I separated roughly 3/4 kilo of shrimp, peeled and deveined them, and set aside the cleaned meats for later use, refrigerate or freeze, depending on how long before you use them. Do not throw away the shells and peels. With the remaining 1 and 1/4 kilo of shrimp, cut through the thin shells and devein, then add this pile to the shells and heads. In a large pot, add generous amounts of butter (say 6-8 tablespoons) and saute half a cup of sliced shallots, some white parts of leek, chopped carrots (two medium sized) and one clove of garlic. Add some fresh thyme leaves if you have it, taken off their stems. Saute this for 5 minutes or so until the veggies sweat. Add all the shrimp shells and whole shrimp (do NOT add the cleaned, shelled shrimp you had earlier set aside). Saute until this turns nice and orange or orange pink. Add a small can of whole plum tomatoes or several large ripe fresh tomatoes if you have them. I also added a tablespoon of tomato paste for a more intense tomato flavor. Let this simmer for a few minutes, then add 3 cups of seafood broth (or if in a pinch, chicken broth but try to do seafood broth) and let this simmer for several more minutes.
Carefully, and in batches, place the hot soup mixture in a food processor and blitz it like you mean it and it turns into a sludge, say a minute with the food processor on for each batch. If in doubt, blitz it some more. Put this in a large bowl or pot. When you have blitzed everything, add another 6-7 cups of seafood broth to the mixture and stir. Pass this through a tamis (photo below), food mill or fine sieve to extract the broth and take out the solids. You should end up with roughly 10-11 cups of “soup”… I let this cool, stored it in a large glass pitcher in the refrigerator overnight for the flavors to develop some more…
The next day, an hour before serving, take the soup out of the fridge. In a small pot with boiling, heavily salted water, poach the peeled shrimp for a minute or two until just done and set aside. Pour the soup into a pot and heat it up slowly, then season with generous amounts of salt to taste, and add roughly 3/4 cup of heavy cream and stir. Adjust seasoning just before serving. In your soup bowls, add a few poached shrimp at the center of your bowl, then ladle in roughly 3/4 cup of hot bisque into the bowls. Garnish with something green, here I used some carrot sprouts.
This turned out beautifully. The bisque was on the light side, not terribly intense, but the flavor was fantastic. Definitely something you can do at home, and in advance for the most part. And believe me, most of your guests will probably think you were slaving in the kitchen for hours to put this on the table. This recipe will serve 12. Enjoy!