The seventeenth century was a turning point for soup. Bisque was no longer made entirely of pounded pigeon or boiled game and garnished with crayfish. In fact, the crayfish took center stage. And, not surprisingly, the color of this classic soup turned pink. To get it straight, a bisque is defined as a cream soup, usually seafood-based and, classically, thickened with rice. There. I said it. I acknowledge that there should be some type of crustacean swimming about and rice, in one form or another, holding the goods in place. However, like the laws emanating from our Constitution, classics are meant to be interpreted. Caesar Salad adorned with olives? A grilled hamburger stuffed with cheese and bacon rather than gracing the top of the patty? Chicken Noodle Soup with roasted tomatoes and fresh basil? All classics, integrity intact, but made anew with some inspiration, consternation and, perhaps, some perspiration into the development of the newer dish. Not necessarily better, mind you; just different. Sometimes better. If not, then what would be the point?
Matt measuring out the Sherry
To start, we stripped the shrimp of their shells. We opted for smaller, 31-35 per pound variety, shrimp. Much larger, and they tend to toughen up when subjected to the longish exposure to heat necessary to make the bisque. The shells were given a quick simmer in water with a bay leaf and a pinch of black peppercorns. Alas, the shrimp stock would prove to be an inexpensive liquid medium for the soup.
The recipe yields just over a quart of finished product:
½ cup, butter, melted over medium heat
1 cup, yellow onion, small diced
8 oz, shrimp, peeled & deveined, shells reserved for stock
½ cup, flour
1 cup, shrimp stock
24 oz, whole milk
½ cup, sherry (we used the less expensive cooking variety, but feel free to indulge in the ‘better’ stuff)
To taste, Dry thyme, salt, black pepper
Alex Small Dicing The Onions
To start, sweat the onions in the butter, until just translucent, using care not to brown them or they will look like ants swimming in your soup. Cook the peeled and deveined shrimp in the butter-onion mixture until their color just starts to turn pink. Overcooking now will result in little, rubber band-like shrimp-shaped bits of rubber on your spoon.
Stephanie stirring in the flour
Stephanie stirs the flour
Simmering the shrimp
Holding true, the crew did puree the soup. Specifically, half of the soup was pureed while the remainder was left undisturbed as garnish. For garnish, they kept it simple with a frond of fresh parsley and some of the un-pureed shrimp.
Be sure to serve as hot as humanly possible; as the soup cools, that familiar starch film forms on the surface.