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Rustic Shrimp Bisque with Dry Sherry

shrimp bisque

There are a handful of people in my family that have an obsession with bisque. Everywhere we go, if it’s on the menu it gets added to the ticket. I love the idea of this soup, but too often I feel let down after ordering it. For me to sit up and take notice of a bisque I need the addition of dry sherry or brandy to the pot. The alcohol evaporates during cooking and what remains is this incredible flavor that provides the second wave of warmth – the one that permeates your head and body – while enjoying a creamy pink bowlful. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite culinary sensations.

I call this version “rustic” because the soup is not strained at the end of the cooking process, leaving small bits of the juicy shrimp and sweet vegetables running throughout. If you’re a purist feel free to strain it, but I encourage you to try it this way before you do.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup long-grain white rice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups seafood stock

2 cups water

1 bay leaf

a small grab of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped (about 3 tablespoons)

1/2 tablespoon of dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or to taste)

salt and pepper

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

juice of half a lemon

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (such as a dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp turn pink and opaque, about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate and reserve.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the same pot and allow to melt. Add the carrots, celery, and onion and cook over medium-low heat until very soft, about 25 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat temporarily and add the dry sherry. Return the pot to the stove and stir until the sherry is almost evaporated, about 4 minutes. Still over medium heat, add the rice and the tomato paste. Give it a stir and allow to cook for 1 minute. Add the seafood stock, water, bay leaf, parsley, dried thyme* and cayenne pepper. Simmer uncovered until the rice has cooked, about 20 minutes. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Add the shrimp back into the pot, reserving 4 for garnish, if desired. Remove bay leaf.

Turn off the flame and, using an immersion blender, blend the soup to combine all the elements, but allow the soup to maintain a rustic consistency. Stir in the cream and reheat the bisque over medium-low heat. Add the lemon juice and adjust seasoning.

Serve with the optional reserved shrimp, chopped and a sprinkle with chopped parsley, if desired.

* When using any dried herb crush it in the palm of your hand for a bit before adding to your recipe. This helps release the fragrance and flavor of the herb.

Serves 4-6.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. this sounds really tasty and I have everything on hand to make it. I haven’t made bisque in ages but I seem to remember that I used the shells of shrimp to create it in the past. Have you heard of that?

    March 15, 2012
    • You can certainly use the shrimp shells to make your own stock! Brown them in some oil or butter and then add water, simmer and strain.

      March 15, 2012

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