Shrimp Bisque

Have you ever made something that was so incredibly good that you even surprised yourself? You think- how on earth could I have made that?

That was exactly my reaction on Saturday when I made this Shrimp Bisque for ‘C’ who was returning home after a week-long business trip. Although rather time consuming, and I had a few kitchen cock-ups, the end result was worth it. The flavours were so deep and rich that I could not stop myself from dipping my spoon into the pot every few minutes while I was making it, just to re-confirm that it really was that good.


I found the recipe in June’s addition of Bon Appetite. Usually I would shy away from recipes such as these as they look far too long and complex – I tend to like my cooking simple and quick, and not a lot of faffing about. However, in my freezer I had a whole bowl-full of frozen shrimp shells which I had saved from when I made the Chilli Garlic and White Wine Prawns, which were calling out to me and I felt that I desperately needed to use them, before it was too late.

I think that one of the reasons why this bisque tasted so good was due to all the flavour that were already coated on these shells; white wine, garlic, parsley, chilli – everything that partners so well with prawns!  I’m convinced it was because of these saved shells which gave this bisque that rich and deep flavour, and now I have another reason to make the Chilli, Garlic and White Wine Prawns again!

Here is the exact recipe from Bon Appétit, it says it serves 6 –but ‘C’ and I managed to finish this off between the two of us as a main course. I would highly encourage anyone to make it, as it is well worth the effort and will definitely be a crowd pleaser at your next dinner party!


  • 4tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1½ lb medium shrimp (about 45), peeled, deveined, shells reserved
  •  2 bay leaves,
  • 2 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ cup brandy
  • ¼ cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ tsp (or more) cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh chives


Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 bay leaf and 8 cups water. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Strain, discarding solids.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook stirring occasionally until just opaque in centre, 3 – 4 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate.

Add remaining 2 tbsp butter to same pot. Add carrots, celery and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until very soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove pot from heat; add brandy. Return pot to heat and stir until almost evaporated, 2-3 minutes. Add rice and tomato paste and stir for 1 minute. Add shrimp stock, remaining bay leaf, parsley, thyme and ¼ tsp cayenne.

Simmer uncovered until flavours meld and rice is soft, about 20 minutes*. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve 4 shrimp for garnish and stir remaining shrimp into bisque. Remove parsley, thyme and bay leaf **

Working in batches, puree bisque in a blender until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer set over a clean pot. Discard solids in strainer.

Stir in cream and reheat bisque over medium heat. Add lemon juice and season to taste.

Mince reserved shrimp and mix with chives in a small bowl. Place 1 heaping tbsp shrimp mixture in the center of large, shallow soup bowls.

Ladle bisque around garnish and serve.


*I only had brown rice at home, which I would not recommend as it takes much longer than 20 minutes to cook. Which meant the stock had reduced quite substantially – yet at the same time the flavours were incredibly intense.

**I do have to admit something –  I completely forgot to throw the shrimp in at this point, and by the time that I realised my mistake, I had already pureed the bisque in the blender. However, I honestly felt that I did not lose out on any flavour, and probably would do the same the next time I make this.

At the end of the day, I believe that recipes are guidelines – if you don’t have one type of herb throw in another, if you miss something out but you think the flavour and consistency works for you…then I think it is right. Really that is what cooking is all about!

4 thoughts on “Shrimp Bisque

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