Friday, November 29, 2019

A Tale Of Two Bisques.

I imagine a definition would be in order here in case you're not sure exactly what a bisque is.
A bisque is a French-based creamy soup with a shellfish base.   It should have a smooth and velvety texture and be slightly thick.  Originally, this thickness came from from grinding the shells of crustaceans into a fine paste, although nowadays, rice is used as a common thickener.  A bisque is not a chowder, although both are cream-based and both feature seafood.  The consistency is the characteristic that separates them.  A bisque is smooth whereas a chowder is chunky.  Also, bacon and potatoes are generally used in a chowder, and not in a bisque.

With that said, I'm taking liberties and making my own bisque-type soups here.  I have two basic bisques.  One is puréed.  And one is ... pure... but with chunks, so more of a chowder, but without the bacon and potatoes.  Technically, I guess these aren't even bisques after I got through with them, but they did start out that way.  Both use homemade shrimp stock as the base.  Both have cream and sherry.  I offer both and let you choose.  And remember - I offer only guidelines.  You don't have to follow step-by-step exactly.  Make it your own.  It's soup! 

Both my soups start out with shrimp stock.
It's simple to make and if you're peeling shrimp anyway, might as well put those shells to use.

For the shrimp stock, use all the shells from about a pound of shrimp, coarsely chop up a stalk of celery and an onion (use the skin, too), and use a few bay leaves.  Mine are fresh from my bay tree so I used about 5.  If you use dried, cut back - maybe 2.

Melt and little butter in a pot and when it gets foamy, add in the shrimp shells.
Be sure to poke it around while it cooks.

Cook over medium heat until the shells turn pink.

Then add in the onion and skins

and the celery.

Cover with about about 6 cups of water.

Bring to a simmer, cut heat to low, and let barely simmer for about 30 minutes.

Strain out all shells and stuff.

Discard the spent shells and vegetables.
You now have shrimp stock.

Now that you have the stock, you're ready to start on your soup/bisque.

Bisque #1
Chop up a carrot, a stalk of celery, and some onion.

Sauté for a minute or two in a tablespoon of butter.

Then add another tablespoon of butter and about 2 TB flour and cook over low heat, stirring.  For about 2 minutes.
The flour needs to be cooked to get out the raw taste.   This is called a roux.  It's a mixture of fat (butter, in this case) and flour and this is what will thicken your soups or sauces.  (It's how you make gravy, too.)  There are different types of roux - white, blond, and brown - depending on how long you cook the flour, and each type is used for a particular sauce, with the darker roux having a nuttier, deeper flavor (generally used for Cajun dishes like Gumbo).  For our purposes, we're going with the lighter roux.

Slowly pour in about 2 cups of the stock.
Stir, cooking over low heat, until thickened.

I had some thickened tomato sauce I'd made for a pizza and I stirred in about 2 tablespoons of that.  You could use tomato paste.  Stir until combined and smooth.

In another pan, over medium high heat, I sautéed the shrimp in a little oil and butter.

About a minute on each side.

Then I poured in some sherry.  Off heat and away from flame.

Pour the sherry and half the shrimp into the soup.

Pour the whole into a blender and purée it.

Pour in about 1/2 cup cream and heat through.
Salt and pepper to taste.
And that right there is your bisque.

And serve.

With additional shrimp on top along with some parsley and oyster crackers and/or toast.
I guess I can't go with a true bisque.
I like to see my shrimp.

Now, on to Shrimp Soup #2.
This is where I got distracted away from the bisque concept and decided I wanted chunks in my soup.
I think I liked this one better, if only for the ease of preparation.
No puréeing was involved and I already had the shrimp stock on hand.
And it was really quick.

I started out with chopped carrot, celery, onion, and mushrooms.

Sauté in a little butter.
For about 2 minutes.

Sprinkle in about 2 TB flour.
Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.

Slowly, stir in shrimp stock.  About 2 cups.

Cook over low heat, letting it thicken.

Add in about a cup of cream and heat through.

Now, I'm going to show you another thickening tip.
We've already made a roux to thicken.
But, if you want to thicken a soup even more, try beurre manié.
 "Kneaded butter" in English.
Mix an equal amount of butter and flour and rub together until well-combined.
Then pull off small chunks and add it to your soup.
This will thicken the soup without making doughy, lumpy clumps, which is what you'd have if you just added flour at this point.  As the butter melts in the hot liquid, the flour particles are evenly distributed.  They swell and thicken the liquid without forming clumps.
Add in sherry.  About 1/4 cup.
Taste test.

Add in cooked shrimp to heat through.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Serve with some parsley sprinkled on top.
I had red peppers in the garden, so I chopped a bit and added that on top too.
And some slices of toast.
Give it a few grinds of pepper.


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Quick And Easy Shrimp Stir Fry.

  I always have shrimp on hand in the freezer, so a quick shrimp stir fry is just a thaw and a chopchopchop away.
Whenever you're doing a stir fry, remember:  Preparation is key.  You need to have everything chopped, sliced, diced, and ready to go.  Once you do that, your meal is only minutes away.

All that's involved here is shrimp, assorted vegetables, sauce, and a hot skillet  Once you have the prep work done, the rest is quick and easy.

Spicy Shrimp Stir Fry
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-tracted  
Remember, that black line going doing the back of the shrimp is the digestive tract, not a vein.  So de-tract your shrimp, not de-vein it.
Assorted vegetables:
I used:
sugar snap peas, strings removed
carrots, peeled and sliced
onion, chopped
You could use whatever you like.  I prefer snow peas to sugar snap, but only sugar snaps were available.  I had bok choy, but forgot to use it.  If you'd like those cute little ears of corn, go for it.  Water chestnuts would be fine too.  Makes for a nice crunch.  Also, if you wanted to throw in some peanuts at the end, that's good too.  Or toasted sesame seeds.  The stir fry is not etched in stone.  Use what you have and what you like.
2 1-inch cubes ginger
4 cloves garlic
Peel the ginger, slice it, and run it through a garlic press along with the garlic, scraping the pulp and juice into a small bowl.

For the sauce:
2 TB hot Asian chili paste
2 TB honey
2 TB soy sauce or Tamari
juice of one lime
Mix all together in a small bowl.

To stir fry:
Heat a large skillet with a tablespoon of peanut oil over high heat.  When it's hothothot, add in the shrimp.  Cook for one minute, turn over, and cook for about a minute.  Transfer to bowl.

Pour in another tablespoon of oil, get it hothothot, and add snow peas and carrots.  Cook for a minute, then add in onion.  Pour in garlic/ginger mixture, and cook, stirring, another minute.
Pour in sauce and shrimp.  Stir to coat and turn off heat.

Serve with some kind of rice - I used a nutty flavored brown jasmine rice which I cooked just shy of the time recommended, so that it was slightly al dente.  Then I sprinkled some chopped cilantro over everything.


 For the step-by-steps:
I used this much garlic and ginger.
 On the left:  garlic and ginger, snow peas, carrots, onions, and sauce.
On the right:  shrimp and cilantro.
Hot pan with hot oil.
Add the shrimp.

Less than a minute each side.
And remove from pan.

Peas and carrots go in pan next.
Cook for a minute.

Then add onion.

Add in garlic and ginger.
Pour in the sauce.
And add the shrimp back in.
Stir to coat.

Serve on a bed of rice and sprinkle cilantro over top.