Shrimp bisque is a simple soup rich with the flavor of sweet shrimp, thickened with rice, and enriched with heavy cream. It’s easy to make, but the flavor and texture are divine.
Last week, as I was toiling away in my home office on a typically cool and foggy Bay Area Fall day, a hankering for shrimp bisque struck me. As I mentioned yesterday, I was working on an assignment for a client that required me to make a large pot of shrimp stock.
So there I was, with a pile of peeled and deveined shrimp and a pot of shrimp stock. I found myself dreaming of sitting outside at Abbott’s in Noank, Connecticut, on a warm mid-August afternoon.
The view of sailboats coming and going in Long Island Sound is the perfect backdrop for tucking into a buttery hot lobster roll and a bowl of creamy lobster bisque.
But here I was in the chilly Bay Area, with shrimp and shrimp stock. So shrimp bisque with a side of crusty sourdough bread seemed like a reasonable substitute.
What is shrimp bisque?
Bisque is a soup of French origins. To make a traditional bisque, you first sautee shellfish (shrimp, lobster, crab, or crayfish) shells in butter. Then you cook the shellfish a second time by steeping it with other ingredients. The word bisque derives from the french bis cuites or “twice cooked.”
What makes a bisque a bisque?
A traditional bisque uses rice to thicken the broth. In doing my research for this post, I found a surprising number of recipes that refer to this traditional thickening method in their headnotes, only to provide instructions for a soup thickened with a butter-flour roux. Using the rice method is far easier.
This very simple shrimp bisque recipe uses the traditional method of thickening the seafood stock with rice. Puree the broth with the rice just before adding the cream. There’s no need to make a roux.
If you don’t have shrimp stock and don’t care to make it (even though it’s really easy! See my recipe here), feel free to substitute a store-bought shellfish stock, such as Better Than Boullion’s Lobster Base, just be sure to taste the soup before adding the salt (you’ll certainly want to add less than what’s called for in this recipe).
And if you are so fortunate as to find yourself with a lobster, a pot, and a couple of hours to kill, you could use this recipe to make a lobster bisque (substituting lobster, obviously) to rival Abbott’s (but you’ll still have to go to the Connecticut shore for the view, the weather, and the perfect, buttery hot lobster roll.)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 cup long-grain rice
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1–1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- 8 cups homemade Shrimp Stock or store-bought low-sodium shrimp or fish stock, divided
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 2 pounds shrimp, shelled (shells used for stock, if making from scratch), deveined, cooked in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons snipped chives, for garnish
- Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and, when melted, add the onion and cook, stirring, until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add rice, tomato paste, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring, for another minute or so.
- Add the carrot, celery, and stock and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes until the vegetables and rice are soft.
- Using an immersion blender or in batches in a countertop blender, puree the soup. Bring the soup back up to a simmer.
- Meanwhile reserve 4 whole shrimp for garnish and chop the rest into bite-sized pieces.
- When the soup is hot, add the diced cooked shrimp, cream, and lemon juice and cook until heated through.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
- Serve garnished with the reserved cooked shrimp and chives.
Amount Per Serving Calories 526Total Fat 13gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 748mgSodium 7470mgCarbohydrates 15gFiber 1gSugar 3gProtein 82g