Bisques are thick, rich soups usually made from shellfish like shrimp, crab and lobster. To make bisques, you need to use the whole raw crustaceans (with the heads and shells) to extract the flavor and develop deep character in the soup. So, for this soup, you need to buy whole-uncooked shrimp.
The deep rich color in a Bisque comes from the layered steps of browning the mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery), then browning the shells of the crustaceans and finally the tomato paste. This browned “fond” (the caramelized bits that form on the shells, vegetables and the bottom of the pan) is the foundation for the character of this soup and is imperative to making good Bisques. It is important to get the deep-rich flavors without over-caramelizing the fond and imparting a “burnt” flavor. Liquids are then added to release the fond and the mixture is simmered to disperse the developed flavors throughout the soup.
If you live in an area where crab and lobster are more abundant or you simply prefer to make a lobster bisque or a crab bisque, make the following substitution. Cook four crabs as in step one for 6 minutes (shells will turn bright red when done), pick crabmeat from body and claws and reserve, rinse shells and begin with step number two, omitting the picking of the meat. For lobster bisque, I par-cook the lobsters, break them down and use the pieces of lobster shells in place of the shrimp shells in step 1. Before you proceed to step 2, remove the lobster pieces with meat in them (just as you would do with the shrimp), pick the lobster meat out, chop and reserve, and add the shells back to the pot and proceed with step 2.
Shrimp BisqueCourse: SoupsCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Easy
2-pounds whole medium shrimp
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium Spanish onion
1 cup small dice carrots
1 stalk celery, small dice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup Armagnac
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
5 cups shrimp or fish stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped, for garnish
1 teaspoon cognac
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves for garnish
- In a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 4 Tablespoons of butter and sauté the chopped onion, carrots and celery. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shrimp and cook for another 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the shrimp from the pan, allow them to cool until you can handle them and remove the heads and the shells. Reserve the shrimp meat and add the the heads and shells back into the pot.
- Turn the heat down to a medium flame and add the flour to the pan. Stir to coat the shrimp shells and vegetables. Cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Add the cognac and flame. Extinguish with the white wine and cook briefly. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and shrimp or fish stock. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat and reduce down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the shrimp shells and vegetables to release as many juices as possible. Return to a clean saucepan and add 1/2 cup of the heavy cream. Season with salt and white pepper.
- To serve, whip the other 1/2 cup of heavy cream to stiff peaks and season with salt, white pepper and 1 teaspoon cognac. De-vein the reserved shrimp meat and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Sauté briefly in a teaspoon of butter until just cooked through. Divide the cooked shrimp between the bowls. Ladle the soup into the bowls and garnish with a spoonful of whipped cream and a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves.