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Release date: 12/28/2004.
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Shrimp Bisque

(French, Bisque de Crevettes)

Traditionally, shrimp bisque is a waterfront or restaurant soup--springing from some place that accumulates the masses of shrimp shells that are needed to make the distinctive shrimp-shell stock. Times change, though. Now it's possible to buy concentrated shrimp base. And even without that, you can come awfully close to the original by incorporating some shrimp shells into a seafood or fish stock. This recipe produces a shrimp bisque that is deeply flavored of shrimp and the salt sea. It's thick and tangy, wonderfully satsifying as lunch with a salad or sandwich...or as an elegant first course to dinner. Serve hot to 4-6.

Garnish: reserved shrimp slices, sautéed in Cognac or white wine, tarragon (or other fresh herb), and croûtons (made from thin slices of bread fried in butter until crisp and brown).

In a skillet, sauté the onion, celery, and carrot (called a mirepoix) in the butter for 5 minutes, until the vegetable are soft, not brown. Add the tomato pieces and sauté for another 5 minutes. Scrape out into a bowl and reserve.

In the same pan, heat the olive oil then add the whole shrimp. Cook until the shells are red and crisp--about 4-5 minutes. Scrape out of the pan and let cool.

While the shrimp are cooling, heat the stock and wine in a large saucepan, add the reserved vegetables and the rice, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and, partially covered, simmer for 20 minutes.

Peel the cooled shrimp, separating the shells and the meat, and toss the shells into the cooking soup.

When the soup has finished cooking, puree in a blender, solids first (including the shells), then strain back into the pot.

Take half of the reserved shrimp, puree them in the blender (slowly adding enough hot stock to completely emulsify them)--and pour them into the pot.

Enrich the soup by whisking in the softened butter and the cream, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit, for flavors to blend, until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, sauté thin bread slices in butter until crisp and brown, then drain. Slice the remaining shrimp lengthwise and briefly sauté them over high heat with the Cognac or wine. Mince the tarragon or other herb finely. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with the shrimp and minced herb, and pass the croûtons separately.