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Rustic Shrimp Bisque

April 18, 2010

One morning as I was commuting to work and listening to a podcast of NPR’s The Splendid Table, Melissa Clark was on discussing a shrimp bisque that sounded phenomenal.  My favorite part about the recipe was that she talked about using the shells of the shrimp to help create the broth.  I also loved that despite being a bisque, it actually doesn’t include any cream.  The heartiness is instead derived from the use of rice.  I love bisque but often find that they are too rich for me, so I was quite anxious to make this.

Despite the fact that my tiny apartment stunk of shrimp for a week after making this bisque (I have no exhaust fan), I loved it.  Like I really, really loved this and will definitely be making it again.  It was filled with oodles of flavor.  The fennel and pernon (I actually substituted this with star anise) is what really made it for me adding a nice depth to the shrimp flavor, which itself was intensified with the use of the shrimp shells.  Also, as expected, the rice made it taste rich and hearty without over doing it.

As noted above this recipe calls for pernon, which is a licorice flavored liquor.  I had read on the internet that a good substitute is grinding up some anise and letting it sit in a little vodka overnight.  After straining the vodka, it should have the same effect as pernon.  Since I didn’t take the time to plan ahead, I instead dropped a star anise into the bisque when it was cooking and left it there for about 10 minutes before retrieving.  You can also just skip this step alltogether.

I found that at the end, my bisque was way too dry.  If you run into this as well, just add warm water until it reaches the consistency you want.

So here is the recipe adapted from Melissa Clark’s.  The ingredients are all the same, but I made a couple small changes to the instructions.  This recipe makes 4 to 6 servings.

  • 1 lb medium or large shrimp, shelled, shells reserved
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod, optional, plus additional for serving
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 large leeks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped, fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1/4 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste.
  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, cook shrimp shells in 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring frequently, until lightly browned in spots, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add wine and brandy and Pernod if using, and boil until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Add 6 cups of water and the thyme and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  4. Strain shrimp stock into a bowl, pressing on the shells before discarding them.
  5. Reduce the heat on the stove to medium.  In the same pot, melt another 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the shrimp and sauté until they are pink, 2 to 4 minutes depending on size. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl.
  6. Increase heat to medium high and add remaining 3 tablespoons of the butter to the pot with the celery, leeks, garlic, and fennel and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the rice, tomato paste, cayenne, and remaining salt and sauté for 2 minutes.  Mix well ensuring that the tomato paste deepens in color.
  8. Add shrimp stock and with a wooden spoon or whisk scrape fond off the bottom of the pot and stir.  Lower heat to a simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
  9. Set aside 4 to 6 nice shrimp and stir the remainder into bisque; let cook for 2 minutes.
  10. Working in batches, pour the bisque into a blender (Use caution when blending hot liquids or add a couple of ice cubes to the blender while blending.  I used a Cuisinart and left the lid for the “pour hole” open so that the steam could escape), then return to the pot. Or, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can puree the soup to be as smooth or chunky as you like.  If needed, add warm water to reach desired consistency.
  11. Stir in the lemon juice and additional salt to taste. Reheat if necessary before serving.
  12. Garnish each bowl with a shrimp, a drizzle of Pernod if desired, and a piece of fennel frond.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Carrie permalink
    April 20, 2010 11:23 am

    mmm… this looks sooo delic! right up my alley. i once made a shrimp stock using the shrimp shells, and it just had the best flavor! can’t wait to try this one too!

  2. sara permalink
    April 22, 2010 10:12 am

    this looks really good. I will bring you a bottle of pernod next time I come over.

  3. Mat permalink
    April 26, 2010 8:28 am

    Another classic. Awesome.
    Are you coming to London in the Summer?


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