Shrimp bisque (and bidding adieu to summer)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted something. Truth be told, I haven’t really felt like it. Why? Certainly not because I have been absent from the kitchen (quite the contrary!). I’ve been mourning the loss of summer- through grief’s five stages. I believe I’ve reached acceptance. I just wasn’t ready for fall yet. I have not spent enough time adequately gorging on the fruits of summer: tomatoes, corn, squash, peppers, eggplant (and I have not consumed copious amounts of ice cream either).

I could have afforded another month. As could my garden. No sooner do my bell peppers start taking off that we have shorter days and colder nights. I refuse to pick them green no matter how large they are. I wanted yellow, orange and red peppers and I will sacrifice the whole plant to spare a few sweet fruits! So this weekend I admitted defeat and pulled the tomatoes, cucumbers, grasshopper-chewed green bean plants and the borer-infested squash plants from my garden and started the process of calling it a season. *Tear*

Cue the boots, everything pumpkin, macaroni and cheese and hearty soups. Bring it, fall!

Now I don’t often make cream-based soups due to the added component of, well, heavy cream, but I’ve been stowing away my shrimp shells in the freezer for months. So it was only reasonable to purge the freezer and make some shrimp stock. In my repertoire of recipes, shrimp stock equates to luscious, indulgent shrimp bisque.

This menu item was a huge endeavor and it is highly probable that I created more work for myself than necessary, but don’t they say it’s a journey not a destination? Oh. They’re referring to life, aren’t they? Certainly not meal preparation. Ah, well. It was delicious and time well-spent on a weekend!

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To make the shrimp stock:

Heat a few tbsp. of vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add a gallon size bag of frozen shrimp shells. Coat the shells in the oil and saute for a few minutes until the shells are uniformly pink. Remove the shells from the pot and reserve.

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Add another tbsp. of oil to the pot and then add the white and light green parts of two chopped leeks along with one onion sliced thin and two stalks of chopped celery. Cook 5-10 minutes until the onion and leek soften and becomes translucent.

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Turn the stove on to high and add 1/2 c. white wine. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the wine reduces by half. Add 8 c. cold water, the shrimp shells, one sprig of fresh thyme, a few stems of parsley (4) and a few peppercorns  (5-6). I also added some celery leaves. Bring to a simmer for 30 minutes. (Be careful not to let the water boil as it clouds the stock) Drain through a fine mesh sieve and discard solids.

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To make the bisque*:

Heat 1/4 c. vegetable oil in a soup pot over high heat. Add 1 tbsp. minced shallots, thinly sliced leek (white and light green parts), 1 sliced celery stalk and 1 thinly sliced onion. Cook until the vegetables soften.

Add 1/2 c. tomato puree (I pureed a few of my tomatoes and added a tbsp. of tomato paste) along with 1 tbsp. sweet paprika. Cook until the puree darkens (3 minutes). Add 1/2 c. white wine and cook until reduced.

Add shrimp stock, 1 bay leaf, a few parsley stems and 1 sprig of fresh thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and herbs. With a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup. Add 1 lb. chopped shrimp and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and add 1/2 c. heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with warm bread and a spring salad.

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*Recipe adapted from The Culinary Institute of America’s Book of Soups (2001).