Being from coastal Long Island, NY, I love me some seafood soup. Soup in all forms…chowder, stew, and of course bisque (be still my heart!).
So when this pick came up for Barefoot Bloggers this month, I was really really excited, though a wee bit nervous at the same time because the last time I tried to make a seafood soup at home (Manhattan clam chowder), the pot ended up outside in the snow along with the soup.
But I trust Ina. How could I not after all the amazing things I’ve made since I first printed off one of her recipes from Food Network 6 years ago? And she claims that this recipe doesn’t involve a whole bunch of steps which is always a good thing in my book.
The bisque turned out just as I hoped it would! It was awesome and certainly rivals the bisque from any of the better seafood restaurants I’ve been to (including one I ate at recently that claims their bisque is famous).
It was the perfect marriage of shrimp flavor with a “I’m just here in the background” sherry and cognac blend and I definitely knew I was eating a seafood-based soup without the seafood flavor totally overwhelming the soup.
I realize that bisques can be quite on the heavy side with a whole bunch of heavy cream but this one calls for half-n-half and I ended up using half skim milk/half half-n-half (get that?) in order to lighten it up a bit. I probably could have used more skim milk and less half-n-half because the recipe calls for a good amount of roux which in and of itself is a wonderful thickener.
I was slightly skeptical about the addition of cayenne pepper but don’t skip it! It lends just enough heat without overpowering the flavor of bisque and it’s a really nice flavor complement to the other ingredients.
I thought for a few days about what to serve alongside this soup and never really came up with any great ideas. Crusty bread was probably the best one that I had but I never made it to the store on the day I made the soup. But as it turns out, Ina’s shrimp bisque is hearty enough to stand on it’s own without any side dish. The chunks of shrimp lend to the heartiness of it. And the half-n-half doesn’t really hurt too much either.
If you needed it, crusty bread, soft yeast rolls, crescent rolls, or a side salad would do fine on the side. You could even start a nice steak dinner off with this soup but keep it to cup servings so as to not fill up your guests on soup before the main course starts.
source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
- 4 cups seafood stock
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.
- In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season, to taste, and serve hot.