Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shrimp Bisque

Thursday was our 9th wedding anniversary. (Viva la love!)

Being an awkward day to go out to eat we opted to stay home and have pan seared steaks, prickly potatoes and spinach. Because really who wants to spend $80-100 on dinner when you know you can cook better at home? I like to go to expensive dinners for food that I don't cook such as sushi and uh...sushi.

The day before we had shrimp and grits for dinner and I had a little less than a  pound of shrimp leftover. Since they's already been thawed once I decided I would cook them up as an appetizer for our romantic dinner.

I realised I also had all the shrimp shells and decided to make some stock to freeze. While I was making the stock it hit me that I should make shrimp bisque. Having never made it before I perused the intewebs for recipes then just made something up. Something pretty awesome.

Shrimp Bisque

2 lbs easy peel shrimp peeled and shells reserved. (You only need one pound of actual shrimp for the recipe but you need the two pounds worth of shrimp shells for the stock. You could poach or saute the remaining pound as a second course. Or perhaps plan this over two nights. One night make a shrimp pasta or shrimp and grits the second night the bisque. You could also save shells from easy peel shrimp in the freezer and make a larger quantity of stock then freeze and strain that stock and freeze it in quart baggies. After all that you will need about 6 cups of shrimp stock for this recipe and 1 pound of raw shrimp.)

The Stock
Reserved Shrimp Shells
One half of a large carrot finely diced*
One half of a stalk of celery finely diced*
One shallot finely diced (or you can use the green leaves from the leek)*
1/2 cup dry sherry (you may substitute white wine here but the sherry is better)
1/2 cup brandy (the only acceptable substitute here would be cognac)
One tablespoon tomato paste
Seven cups of water
One Tablespoon of olive oil
Salt to taste

In a large pot over medium heat saute the vegetables in olive oil with a pinch of salt until tender and translucent. Add the shrimp shells and cook until shells turn red. Add the sherry and brandy. Ignite and let the flames die off if you like, otherwise cook for one or two minutes. Add the tomato paste and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Remove from heat and salt to slightly under your taste. If using immediately-ish pour stock through a strainer into a clean bowl or pan. Press on the veg and shells to extract all the stock. If doing ahead allow to cool for one hour before refrigerating shells and all.When ready to use pour stock through a strainer into a clean bowl or pan. Press on the veg and shells to extract all the stock. (Keep in coldest part of fridge one or two days max. Can be frozen once strained)

The Bisque
1 pound of raw shrimp
*The other half of carrot chopped
*The other half of the celery chopped
*One leek white part only, cleaned and chopped (Leeks are very sandy rinse them extremely well. You can  use the green part as a substitute for the shallot in the stock recipe above.)
Heavy pinch of red pepper flakes
Small pinch rosemary
Two Tablespoons butter
One Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup flour
Two Tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups shrimp stock (If you have less than that from the above recipe add enough water to make 6 cups. If you have more just let the soup reduce slightly.)
1/2 cup dry sherry (you may substitute white wine here but the sherry is better)
1/2 cup brandy (the only acceptable substitute here would be cognac)
Pinch of sugar (may not need)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a large pot over medium low heat saute the vegetables, in butter and olive oil with a pinch of salt, the red pepper flakes and the thyme until they are tender and translucent. Add the flour and cook and stir two minutes. Remove from heat and when it stops bubbling whisk in the stock, tomato paste, sherry and brandy. Put the pot back on the high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Give the broth a taste, there is a faint inherent sweetness that shrimp have, you are trying to echo that in the broth. If it's missing add a small pinch of sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a minute and test again. You can add one more small pinch of sugar if needed.

Add the shrimp and cook 2 minutes until shrimp just begin to curl and pinken. The shrimp will not be fully done but the hot broth and final heat will finish them, pinky swear. Remove soup from heat and either puree to desired smoothness in the pan with a stick blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. Return to a bare simmer and stir in cream. Serve immediately. Can be made ahead and very gently reheated.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


It's been awhile...

Chloe: "You know that movie that's like Alice in Wonderland but it's got a good witch and a bad witch?"
Daddy: "The Wizard of Oz?."
Chloe: "Yes"

She was explaining her secret recipe to me.
Chloe: "My recipe has garlic in it and that stuff that's like vegetable oil."
Mommy: "Olive oil?"
Chloe: "No, it's not slidey at all."
Mommy: "Butter?"
Chloe: "No."
Mommy: "Shortening? Lard?"
Chloe: "No, you can't break it all. It comes in a can or a box and you pour it in."
Mommy: "Chicken broth?"
Chloe: "Yes! chicken broth! and the very best part of the secret? My recipe has tomatoes! Yum!"

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


When Mom was in the hospital our motto and running gag was "Don't judge me."
"Can I bring you back something to drink?" "Yes, I want tea with six sugars and a really lot of cream. Don't judge me."
"I've been wearing these pants for three days. Don't judge me."
"My daughter hasn't had a bath in five days. Don't judge me."
"All I've eaten today is french fries. Don't judge me.

In the last few days we had with her we made an awful, terrible, painful choice. It was my job/choice to explain the decision to everyone. Every time and to every person, running beneath the surface was a huge "Don't judge me."

In grief we often say and do terrible things to the people who love us. Later on after the storm has passed we regret the damage we've done. Sometimes it's too late. I was losing my mother I couldn't bear whispers of "They just let her die." or worse "They killed her."

It is the end of the year today. In many places the New Year has already begun. All around people are making resolutions. To Eat better or exercise more. To clean house, organise, prioritise, do more, do less. Striving to make up for their shortcomings and failures wanting to be better.

I try not make resolutions.

I try not to look back harshly on myself.

But I do.

And it's been a really, really bad year in many ways. Jacob being ill and Mom dying were bitter icing on a crap cake.

Things will get better and things will get worse.

But this year I am making a resolution to follow my motto. "Don't judge me." I'm going to do my best to remember that everyone has their own pain, their own motivation, their own set of values. They may be very different from mine but that doesn't make them less valid. So I will do my best to judge less and empathise more.

Don't judge me and I won't judge you either.
Happy New Year.