Shrimp Bisque

6 Comments 27 January 2012

We’re back to some rather weird weather here in the South: summer-like storms complete with rising temperatures, lots of rain, severe storms and tornadoes in some locations. It’s enough to make a food blogger want to scream because we’re still very much in winter mode. We wants our breads, our comfort foods – our soups! And we shall not stand for this, Mother Nature! So what do we do when faced with weekends in the low to mid 70’s? We bake and make soup, of course.

Shrimp Bisque 8

If it hasn’t become clear by now, we totes love putting alcohol in our food here at Full Fork Ahead. Imagine my taste-bud-delight when I saw there was sherry and cognac in this. But unlike Ina Garten’s Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, the alcohol notes are much more muted in this one. In other words, they work with the other ingredients instead of leaping to the front of the line. Not that cognac being all in charge is a bad thing, but bisque itself is a much more subtle product and I think Ina nails it with her recipe.

Shrimp Bisque 7

This recipe contains one of my favorite food things – leeks. Om nom nom nom, little greenies! Get in my soup pot and gift us with your magic. Love. Here the shrimp gets added to the leeks and soon after the liquor gets thrown in as well. The next step, which I unfortunately forgot to photograph, is to puree it all just a little in a food processor. This will give the bisque those wonderful little bites of shrimp. It will also ensure that you get plenty of them throughout the soup. I love a good bisque, but many times there’s just not enough of whatever meat is featured in in, a nibble or two if you’re lucky. This one has plenty.

Shrimp Bisque 6

While this post makes the whole process seem kind of easy, keep in mind you’ll need to make a homemade seafood stock before you do anything else. There’s some straining of said stock, some more infusing of said stock with yet more shrimp shells, straining again and so on. I’ll be the first to admit it: this soup is a little more labor intensive than usual. Is it worth it? It was to us!

Shown here is the soup in all its creamy goodness, pretty much ready to be ladled up and enjoyed.

Shrimp Bisque 4

All I know is that this soup really made a day of dreary, sometimes severe, rainy weather feel a lot more bearable. Yes, it’s work, no doubt. Not many soups call for their own personal homemade stock before you even get the recipe off the ground. It’s worth it, though, for us. As subtle as the soup is, infusing it with a stock made from shrimp shells only makes sense.

Think of it this way – if you’ve got a special someone this would make a great addition to an anniversary or Valentine’s Day meal. Or maybe you just like shrimp and soup and need an excuse to marry them up. Whatever the case, this is yet another recipe we’re happy to recommend and I’ll be making it again when we’re needing something comforting and satisfying and a little extra special.

Shrimp Bisque

from Shrimp Bisque by Ina Garten

Prep Time: 15 minutes    Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes    Level: Intermediate    Serves: 4

  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 4 cups seafood stock (recipe below)
  • 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.

Seafood Stock

from Ina Garten

Prep Time: 15 minutes    Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes    Level: easy    Makes: about 1 quart

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • Shells from 1 pound large shrimp
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup good white wine
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme, including stems

Warm the oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add the shrimp shells, onions, carrots, and celery and saute for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add 1 1/2 quarts of water, the white wine, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain through a sieve, pressing the solids. You should have approximately 1 quart of stock. You can make up the difference with water or wine if you need to. (Even though no mention is made here, stock can be frozen and used later. Freeze, in a freezer-safe container, for about 4-6 months, which is a general time frame.)


Some recipes just beg to have their level of difficulty commented on and this is one of them because I think this means different things to different people. While nothing about any of the steps was particularly hard at all, it’s the time it takes to make the soup, especially if you’re like us and could not purchase a pre-made seafood stock (plus we really did want to make it at least once as the recipe instructed to see how Ina’s recipes worked for us). The time involved might well factor in for, say, someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time making a soup. There’s is a lot of working to make this one, in that there’s not a lot of down time to rest between steps. There’s plenty of chopping of things, sauteing, pureeing, etc. You’ll be busy. I think that bumps this one up to an intermediate level for us, not merely easy as Ina’s is labeled over on the Food Network site. Then again, she’s probably cooked a heck of a lot more than us, and I’m sure experience effects how one cook to the next views the level of difficulty in a recipe. In other words – your mileage may just vary!

All that aside, we do feel all the effort paid off. This won’t be one I whip out on busy work nights, but weekends? Oh yes.

I can’t comment on how this one would do leftover because we ate ours later for dinner and it was only in the fridge for a few hours. Given my experience with creamier soups, though, they tend to break down int he fridge overnight and separate a little. Again, though, can’t say for sure on this particular recipe. To be on the safe side, though, I will only prepare it with the intention of eating it the same day. Even after just a few hours in the fridge, it had lost, just slightly, a little of its creamy texture.

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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6 Comments so far

  1. Penny says:

    This sounds like something you’d get in Bermuda…with the sherry! Yum!

  2. Anna says:

    Thanks for a wonderful post. I appreciate that you have shared your seafood stock recipe. I am sure to find this helpful. My husband loves seaood much. Thanks again!

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