Shrimp & Corn Bisque. Two great soups – Shrimp Bisque and Corn Chowder combined into one delicious pot.
Bisque sounds pretty fancy but in reality it’s just a light broth soup with a bit of cream added for richness.
The secret to this wonderful soup is making your own quick shrimp stock. We’ve made shrimp stock once before here at Idiot’s Kitchen for our amazing pot of shrimp & sausage Gumbo. Unlike the Gumbo, which required saving shrimp shells in advance, this Shrimp & Corn Bisque uses only the shells on the shrimp that go into the soup.
No need to plan ahead except in being sure that you buy shrimp with the shells still ON them and not pre-peeled shrimp.
Here’s what you need:
Shrimp (in their shells), Onion, Celery, Carrot, Corn (frozen or fresh), garlic, butter, flour, tomato paste, brandy, water (not pictured), butter, olive oil, bay leaves, fresh tarragon, fresh thyme, salt & pepper.
You will need 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp. I buy Easy-Peel shrimp that that have already been de-veined and have had the shell split down the back for quick peeling. Regular shrimp will be fine, just be sure that when you peel them, you run a sharp knife down the rounded back of the each shrimp to remove the little dark line or “vein”. It’s not really a vein but the digestive tract of the shrimp so you don’t necessarily want to eat that.
Set the peeled shrimp aside in the refrigerator and keep those shells handy to make stock.
For the stock we also need 1 onion, 2 carrots, and 2 stalks of celery all chopped into large pieces.
In a large soup pot, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Dump in the shrimp shells and cook them in the oil until they turn pink and fragrant – about 3-5 minutes.
You will quickly tell from the aroma that this essential step starts releasing the oils from shells that will flavor our stock.
Once the shells are nice and pink and crispy, add the chopped veggies to the pot.
Pour in 1/2 cup of brandy and cook until it has reduced to only a few Tablespoons.
Add 6 cups of water to the pot.
For extra flavor, drop in 2 or 3 smashed and peeled garlic cloves, and a sprig or two each of fresh tarragon and fresh thyme. If you don’t have access to fresh herbs you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of dried tarragon and a pinch of dried thyme however one of the secrets to the lovely light flavor of this soup is in the fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are available at most grocery stores or you can grow your own.
Also add 1 dried bay leaf to the pot. Bring the stock to a boil then turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes you can see that the stock is richly colored and very fragrant.
While the stock cooks, you have plenty of time to chop up the vegetables for the soup.
Finely chop 1 medium onion – about 1 cup
and dice up 2 carrots and 1 stalk of celery into small pieces.
When 30 minutes have passed and the stock is done, strain out the vegetables and shells. Set the stock aside and discard the spent shells and veggies.
Wipe out the soup pot and melt 4 Tablespoons of butter (1/2 stick) over medium high heat. Add the diced onions, carrots, and celery and saute until tender but not browned – about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the sauteed veggies and stir it in to make a roux or thickener for the soup.
Add 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste for even more flavor. (sorry, not shown)
Slowly pour half of the stock into the pot, stir to remove any lumps, and then continue to pour all of the stock into the soup.
Add 2 cups (a 16 ounce bag) of frozen corn or fresh corn cut off the cob if it is in season. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.
At this point, you can hold the soup until you are ready to eat. You can even make the soup up to this point a day ahead, refrigerate it, and reheat it.
Just before you are ready to eat, add the shrimp to the pot.
Note: I’m using large sized shrimp that I have cut into bite sized pieces. I do this because using large shrimp means fewer shrimp to peel. However, if you like the look of whole shrimp in your soup, buy small sized shrimp (but not those tiny salad shrimp) and peel away.
Be sure the soup is still simmering (you might need to increase the heat under the pot) and cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes until they are pink and the edges start to curl.
Turn the heat back down to low and add 1/2 cup heavy cream.
Season the soup to taste with salt & pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a bit of chopped fresh tarragon. If you want to add just a bit more zing, pour a bit of brandy into each bowl before serving up the soup. It’s a technique used for serving French Onion Soup that also works well here.
A nice crusty baguette and a green salad make this a meal to remember.
Oh, and maybe a glass of wine for the cook!
Here’s the recipe: Adapted from Food & Wine