Every once in a while, we need to indulge in something rich and delicious. If you want to impress your family and friends, try this one on for size. Not too heavy. Not too creamy. Definitely rich and delicious. The base of this bisque starts off with homemade seafood stock, which then gets a flavor boost by simmering it for a short time with the shrimp shells. If you don’t have homemade stock on hand, don’t worry. You can use the packaged organic stock …like I did here. Your bisque will still be amazing. If you’re feeling so inclined, here’s Ina’s recipe for her Seafood Stock.
The basic recipe for this soup most definitely comes from Ina Garten, but I’ve made a few tweaks here and there to put my personal spin on it. When you are cleaning the shrimp, keep the tail on about six of them. I like to put them aside, then throw them in a grill pan with a bit of olive oil. They make a beautiful (and tasty) garnish.
While the stock is simmering with the normally-discarded shrimp shells, it’s time to start working the leeks. Speaking of leeks …it’s always advisable to soak them in cold water before chopping them. They really do tend to hold onto a bunch of gritty sand between those layers. It’s best to have all ingredients prepped and ready to go at this point. When you see how fast the soup comes together, you’ll be glad to have everything at hand.
Once the shrimp and leeks are cooked through, it all gets roughly blended. Ina recommends that you use a food processor. I sometimes prefer to use my immersion blender. Either method will work. Just be careful not to overprocess. The end product should be roughly processed so that your bisque will have some added texture.
In the same pot or dutch oven, the creamy base is created with butter, flour & half-and-half. This is where you can customize a bit. If you are gluten-free, use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour instead of traditional all-purpose flour. If you want to cut down on the richness, use milk instead of the half-and-half. Or if you choose to amp up the richness, feel free to use heavy cream. Make it yours.
Once it all comes together, you’ll be amazed at the big old pot of goodness that you’ve created. This truly rivals any seafood bisque you would normally order at your favorite restaurant. Have plenty of crusty bread handy and top off each bowl with some chopped fresh herbs, a fresh grind of black pepper and a perfectly grilled shrimp.
Ina garten's shrimp bisque
Adapted from Ina Garten in Barefoot Contessa At Home
Once you taste this creamy & delicious soup, you'll make it again and again.
- 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, peeled & deveined, shells reserved (leave tail on 6 shrimp, for garnish)
- 4 cups seafood stock
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for shrimp garnish)
- 2 cups chopped leeks, white & light green parts (about 3 leeks)
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup brandy or cognac
- 1/4 cup madeira wine or dry sherry
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a large saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock, adding enough water to make a total of 3 3/4 cups.
Heat a small saucepan or grill pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and sauté the 6 garnish shrimp until cooked through with a golden edge. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the chopped leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the chopped garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper & shrimp. Cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the brandy or cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the Madeira wine or dry sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer.
Transfer the shrimp and leeks to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed. Alternately, transfer the shrimp and leeks to a deep bowl and roughly blend with an immersion blender. Set aside.
Using the same pot or dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt & pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season to taste. Serve immediately garnished with fresh parsley, a sprinkling of fresh ground pepper and 1 grilled shrimp.