A Sign of Good Things to Come – Shrimp and Corn Bisque
I have spent the last few weeks not looking forward to shlepping out to Salt Lake City for an American Payroll Association conference. Firstly because it was a conference entirely dedicated to all things payroll, and secondly because it was in a city I had heard precisely nothing good about – extreme religious conservatism, polygamy, watered down beer (gasp) – I braced myself for the worst. The conference itself was approximately what I had expected, all said it was a good work experience but I am not exactly sad to know they only hold one each year. When it comes to Salt Lake City – perhaps I set the bar a bit low, but the city completely blew away my expectations. The downtown area was pretty, wide streets speckled with interesting local restaurants and a nice outdoor mall, and to top it all off the view of the mountains that surrounded the city was breathtakingly beautiful. I had the fortune of visiting some of the cities eateries with my coworkers, I was shocked to find several good micro breweries featuring peak season produce, amazingly good seafood, and creative home grown beers. But a week out of the house left me longing for home, for my bed and soft sheets, the familiarity of my apartment, and astonishingly more than anything, I could not wait to get back into my tiny little kitchen.
Saturday morning I drove down to the little produce stand next to the gym to discover signs of summer’s bounty everywhere. Melons stacked in pyramids, several varieties of eggplant, jalapenos and basil galore lined the bins beneath the tent, towards the back I found what I was looking for – corn! While not quite the local jersey corn of my dreams these ears from further south were just what the doctor ordered, nice moist husks filled with fat yellow kernels that smelled refreshingly like, well, corn (the corn you get at the supermarkets in the winter is often missing this particular corn smell.)
Bon Appetit had run an article on Shrimp in its June 2011 edition which featured a recipe for Shrimp Bisque and I was determined to adapt it to make one of my all-time favorite, guilty pleasure restaurant foods – the Shrimp Corn Chowder Bertucci’s has been running as part of its daily soup rotation. This soup is velvety with a strong shrimp flavor which is heavily influenced by a hearty dose of homemade shrimp stock – peeling the shrimp may be a bit fussy but its well worth the effort. The early season sweet corn is excellent in this dish as its summer sweetness rounds out and balances the salty shellfish broth. Don’t bother to buy shrimp larger than a standard medium (around a 35 shrimp/lb count) as they will be partly chopped and partly pureed when they make their debut in the final dish. I love to top this dish with roasted Poblano peppers and cilantro for an extra kick and hint of freshness.
Shrimp Corn Bisque
2lbs Medium Count Shrimp (Shells On, Heads On If You Can Find Them) Peeled and Deveined – Heads and Tails Reserved
5 TBSP Unsalted Butter
6 Stalks Celery, 4 Chopped to 1/4″, 2 Chopped Into Thirds
4 Carrots Chopped to 1/4″ Rounds
1 Large Onion Diced
2 Cloves Garlic Minced
3 Bay Leaves, Divided
4 Sprigs Thyme
5 Stems Parsley
3 TBSP Tomato Paste
1/2 Cup Long Grain White Rice
1/2 Cup Scotch or Vodka
1/2 TSP Cayenne Pepper
4 Ears of Corn Shucked, and Cut From the Cob
1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Juice of 1 Lime
1/3 Cup Chopped Cilantro (plus additional for garnishing)
Roasted Poblano Peppers, Diced (optional)
Melt 1 TBSP Butter in a large stock pot over med-high heat. Sautee shrimp shells in butter, stirring frequently, until golden (about 4 mins) add 10 cups water, 2 bay leaves, and celery (the celery that you cut into thirds) bring to a low boil and reduce to simmer for about 25 mins or until broth is very fragrant and tastes shrimp-y, add salt and pepper to taste.
Place a fine strainer over a large bowl in the sink and strain solids from broth and set broth aside. Discard solids.
Rinse stock pot and place back on the stove over high heat. Add 1 TBSP Butter, add half the shrimp to the put and sautee until the center is just white. Remove shrimp from pot and space out on a place to cool. Add one more TBSP butter to the pot and repeat the process with the other half of the shrimp.
Reduce heat to medium and add onions, carrots, and celery and sautee until translucent, add garlic, remaining bay leaf, thyme and parsely and sautee for 3 mins more. Add tomato paste and rice and sautee for 3 mins. Remove pan from the heat and add liquor, place back on the stove and turn heat up to high and boil until the liquor has almost evaporated. Add stock back to pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 25 mins. In the meantime chop half of the shrimp into small, bite-sized pieces.
After 25 mins remove pot from the stove and puree the soup in a blender with cilantro, and the 1/2 of the shrimp you left whole. Return to the pot and add cayenne and cream. Add corn and simmer 5 mins. Add chopped shrimp and lime juice and taste for balance, add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve topped with cilantro and diced roasted poblano peppers.