Guys, I know I say this about all of my recipes but today’s Shrimp Bisque Risotto is so. damn. good! Like so good! I ate it for three straight days and I was sad when it was gone. That never happens to me because when it comes to food cravings, I have the attention span of a gnat. I took a huge risk making this risotto because I knew I’d be on the hook to eat the whole thing. Bae does not do seafood, so when it came to leftovers, it was either me or the compost. Needless to say, the compost did not see a grain of this Shrimp Bisque Risotto.
Do you know what separates a bisque from the chowders of the world? I do because this is what my life is now. I spend my days asking Google food-related questions. A lot of the time this exercise doesn’t go beyond a quick nod and a quick “cool!”. But bisque, the bisque was special. I spent some time getting to know bisque because I realized I’d never had a good bowl of it and I really didn’t know anything about it.
I feel like somewhere along the way bisque grew up, got cool and then got very old. It feels like a chic starter circa 1985. Not unlike a wedge salad or caviar-laden blinis. And since, I only showed up more than halfway through the 80s and, at that point, was kind of a bummer at parties, I never got the chance to fall in love and subsequently get over any of these menu items. I have what I like to call a false nostalgia for high-end foods of bygone eras. Yes, it seems whenever I imagine myself in the past, I like to imagine I’m rich.
So, you might wonder what is my bisque experience level. Well, now that I’ve made this Shrimp Bisque Risotto, it’s no longer zero. Yes, this is my first bisque and yes, I choose to make it a risotto. If you haven’t figured out that I’m a weirdo at this point, you just haven’t been paying attention. I’m happy the pictures amuse you.
The only bisques I’d encountered in my 31 years on this planet, came out of cafeterias, pouches, and cans. They were gloopy, cream-dependent and tasted of nothing but salt and vague-hits of tomato. So, as any young person with limited bisque exposure would, I assumed I disliked bisque.
Fast forward to today and I’m a total food nerd. Yay! And part of being a food nerd is reexamining foods you dismissed as a dumb kid. Thus far, this process has reunited me with the rutabaga and pulled my relationship with eggplant out of a nose dive. With these past successes in mind, I knew it was time to give bisque a chance.
So, there I was diligently learning everything there was to know about bisque and I’ve got to tell you I was shocked. Bisque is not pureed chowder, it’s way better than that. It’s a creamy soup built on a solid flavorful broth seasoned with the shells of shellfish, which are then partially pureed into the broth to give the soup extra body. The cream is an accent, not the main event! What the what?
For anyone rolling their eyes at this revelation, I get it. It’s weird for a food obsessive not to know what a bisque is. I’m sure, if she were alive and knew who I was, Julia Child would be deeply disappointed with me. But, I mean, there’s a lot of foodstuffs to know. One of the things I love most about food is the fact that it consistently makes me feel like I don’t know sh*t. This is how I know I will never get bored because I’ll never know it all.
But enough about my adventures in bisque, let’s talk about this Shrimp Bisque Risotto. Now, I’m going to tell you up front that this recipe requires a bit of hoarding. I know this is super annoying because you can’t really make this recipe, like, now. But if you’re already a food hoarder, you might already have everything you need in your freezer right now. Yay! Hoarder bonus! What am I talking about? I’m talking about stashing Parmesan rinds in your freezer. I’m talking about buying shrimp with the shells on just so you can squirrel the shells away. Does it make your freezer look like a crazy person’s? Yes. Do you sometimes wish the frozen cheese rinds were Pizza Pockets? Yes. Is it worth it? Yeah, those weirdo things are capable of turning into Shrimp Bisque Risotto!
If you really boil down this Shrimp Bisque Risotto, you get 3 stages. You have the very familiar stock building stage, followed by the sort of odd pureeing and straining stage, and then you have the overwhelmingly soothing risotto stage. I’m sure you have a handle on dicing, deglazing and simmering, so I will skip to the part when things get freaky. After you build the shrimp stock, you’re going to puree the lot, shrimp shells and all, in batches. You’re then going to strain the pureed stock and discard any residual solids. It will feel weird blitzing shrimp shells, you need to accept this. After that, you more or less treat the bisque as you would any risotto stock and you just keep stirring, preferably with a glass of wine in one hand.
So, that’s all you need to know about this Shrimp Bisque Risotto. It’s not particularly low-maintenance but it is oddly soothing to make.
Shrimp Bisque Risotto
- 1 400g, 14oz bag frozen shrimp, shell-on
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1/2 a bulb of fennel diced
- 4 medium-sized carrots diced
- 2 small onions diced
- 3 stalks of celery diced
- 2 roma tomatoes diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups shrimp shells frozen
- 1 parmesan rind
- 6-8 sprigs fresh tarragon
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup brandy
- 8 cups of water
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
- Shell the frozen shrimp, reserving the shells. Place the shrimp in a bowl and transfer to the fridge until ready to use. Place the shells with the other shrimp shells and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, celery and tomatoes to the pot and sprinkle with salt. Sauté the veg until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Stir in the shrimp shells and sauté until they turn a pink. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Pour the brandy over the veg and scrape the bottom of the pot with the back of a spoon. Cook until the alcohol cooks off.
- Gather the tarragon sprigs into a bundle and fasten with butcher's twine. Add the tarragon to the pot followed by the parmesan rind and bay leaves. Pour the water over top and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and liberally salt the mixture. Let the broth cook, uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Take the broth off of the heat and remove the bay leaves, Parmesan rind and tarragon. Working in batches, puree the broth in a blender or food processor. Pour the pureed soup through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth. Transfer the soup back to the pot and place it on the back burner. Bring the soup to a low simmer.
- Pour the remaining olive oil in a deep, large skillet or braiser. Heat the oil until shimmering, then add the rice. Saute the rice until it starts to crackle and produce a nutty aroma. Lower the heat and add a ladle-full of the simmering soup to the rice and stir until it is completely absorbed. Add another ladle of soup and again, stir until the soup has been absorbed. Repeat until the soup is nearly gone and the rice is tender and creamy. Taste and season with salt accordingly. Remove from the heat. Pour in the cream and stir to integrate.
- Coarsely chop the reserved shrimp and add them to the risotto, stir until the shrimp turn pink. Finish the risotto with the lemon juice and divide amongst 4-6 bowls. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.