Shrimp and Fennel Bisque
A thick and rich soup usually made of puréed seafood and cream, bisque brings elegance to any dinner table. However, traditional methods tend to be too tedious and labor intensive, discouraging most home cooks from adding it to their repertoire. Not so here! This recipe will surprise you with its ease of preparation and depth of flavor.
Pernod, an anise-flavored liqueur, is a common ingredient in seafood bisques, but the inclusion of fennel fits in nicely as a subtle substitute. Leeks, rather than onions, also add a delicate layer of flavor, allowing the shrimp to reign as the star. Beautifully pink and smooth when blended, garnish your bisque with a whole shrimp and fennel frond before serving in heated soup bowls.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium-size fennel bulb, trimmed of stalks, cored, and chopped (fronds reserved)
1 medium-size leek (white part only), end trimmed, washed well, and chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
two 8-ounce bottles clam juice
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons long grain white rice, uncooked
2 tablespoons tomato paste
juice of half a lemon
1. In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the shrimp. Cook gently, stirring frequently, until the shrimp have turned pink, about 3 to 4 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent the butter from browning. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl and set aside.
2. Add the fennel, leek and carrot to the pot, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, stir well, and bring to a simmer. Place all but 6 of the shrimp in the pot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Carefully transfer the hot bisque in batches to a blender and purée until smooth. Transfer to a clean pot. Taste for salt, pepper, and lemon juice and adjust if necessary.
If made ahead, cover and refrigerate soup and chill remaining shrimp separately. Reheat over low flame — do not boil — and thin with a touch of milk or water if too thick. Garnish and serve immediately.