Sunday, December 2, 2012

Shrimp Bisque Scented with Bouquet Garni...for an elegant frosty winter evening




**Congratulations to Rooth from the blog "A Miusmie" who won the lovely cookbook "A Family Farm in Tuscany" written by Sarah Fioroni.  I'll be in touch with you about the details!




It was indeed a cold frosty winter's evening a few years back.  I planned a birthday party dinner for P. at a restaurant we had been oogling over called "Le Mistral".  The owners are from Provence and the 'mistral' winds that blow through that area have always struck me as romantic and supremely french.  

This was to be the fanciest most gourmet meal that my children had been introduced to.  I went back and forth a bit about whether or not they should be treated to such luxury.  I felt certain they were old enough to appreciate wonderfully prepared food so we booked reservations for four.





I truly learned that evening that my son has quite the palate for fine dining.  I called the restaurant beforehand and had them make their Beef Wellington dish for P.

When they brought it to the table, he was truly surprised because it was not on the menu for that evening.  We all sampled a few bites.  It was so tender.  The pastry was flaky and crisp.  The mushroom paté spread across the top was so rich and flavorful.





It was Riley, though, who declared it the best meal he had ever had in his 14 year old life.  He talked about that evening and those dishes long after that night.  He was completely charmed with the restaurant but especially, the food.

Riley ordered a bowl of shrimp bisque.  His reaction to the beautiful flavors of the seafood steeped in the rich cream, filled with the aroma of fresh herbs, was just as profound as for the Beef Wellington.






The evening was worth the dollars spent and the menu indulged.  We all thoroughly enjoyed our selections.  It was especially delightful to see our children move beyond those ages where chicken fingers or simple pasta was chosen.

I have tried to recreate that menu from P.'s birthday dinner here at home.  Beef Wellington makes an appearance on special occasions a few times a year.  

The shrimp bisque has been requested time and again by Riley.  It kept slipping down on the list of dishes to attempt but I came across a recipe recently and it just sounded right for this time of year.




Bisques are such wonderful soups.  So many subtle flavors all meld together beautifully.  A good crusty loaf of bread, some delicious Italian olives and perhaps nice slices of cheese make, for me, one of the most perfect meals.

The fresh shrimp stock, hint of tomato paste, and infused flavor of herbs from the bouquet garni are simply gorgeous in this creamy bisque with a slight hint of brandy.







We keep dreaming of a return to that restaurant with the succulent Beef Wellington and the creamy Shrimp Bisque.  We'll need a big occasion to treat ourselves to that indulgent evening again.  For now, recreating these classic dishes at home will have to suffice.  But, the power of a good meal will, no doubt, be forever remembered.



Shrimp Bisque scented with a Bouquet Garni
(from the cookbook 'Soup' by Debra Mayhew)

Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 pounds small or medium cooked shrimp in their shells
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 1/4 quarts water
a few drops of lemon juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
bouquet garni
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 to 4 tablespoons brandy
2/3 cup whipping cream

Remove the heads from the shrimp and peel away the shells:  Reserve the heads and shells for the stock.  Place the shelled shrimp in a covered bowl and chill in the refrigerator.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the heads and shells and cook over high heat, stirring, until they start to brown.

Lower the heat to medium.  Add the vegetables and fry slowly, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until the onions start to soften.

Add the water, lemon juice, tomato paste, and bouquet garni.  Bring the stock to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.  Strain the stock.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.  Stir in the flour and cook until just golden, stirring occasionally.

Add the brandy.  Gradually pour in half the shrimp stock, whisking vigorously until smooth, then whisk in the remaining liquid.  Season if necessary.  Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Strain the soup into the rinsed saucepan.  Add the cream and a little extra lemon juice to taste.  Stir in most of the reserved shrimp and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until hot.

Serve at once, garnished with the remaining shrimp.

33 comments:

  1. I can smell and taste this right now...and your ode to raw shrimp is stunning!

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    1. Did you like that! Making raw anything is quite the challenge. I figure it looks either disgusting or....'interesting'!

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    2. I like photographing raw meats and fish, but I do think some people find it off-putting. Oh well, to each his own!

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  2. Those memories will be cherished a life time. Sounds like a fantastic restaurant. I love shrimp and lobster bisque. Thanks for sharing the recipe and reminding me to give it a try at home. Your photos made my mouth water.

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    1. I am intrigued by all of the subtle flavor combinations now. I would love to make a lobster bisque next!

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  3. I've had lobster bisque but not shrimp! It look delicious!

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    1. The first time I had a bisque was in San Fransisco with a huge sourdough roll. It was something alright!!

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  4. I think it's about time to return to that restaurant and it will become your family restaurant for special occasions. It's wonderful to see your children become connoisseurs of food but how could they not with a mother who cooks like you.

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    1. You know, I should have thought of that for R.'s recent 16th birthday. That would have been memorable to see his reaction yet again. I may have unleashed a wild card. He had better study hard now if he wants to dine like that in the future!!

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  5. Oh fantastic - thank you again for the giveaway!

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    1. You are so very welcome. Sarah came to Central Market in downtown Houston. She was delightful and very down to earth.

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  6. You've split me in half for wanting both beef wellington and this gorgeous bisque!!

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    1. I have made it several times, but that Beef Wellington will NEVER taste like it did that night!

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  7. Oh my - I think I'd love this - and I think I could do it!

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    1. Sure you can do it! I did it! And I had NEVER made bisque before. It is really just alot of simmering pieces and parts of seafood with carrots and onions and herbs. Then, ALL of that is thrown out and you are only eating the residual broth. I never knew that until I made it.

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  8. The soup is such a gorgeous pink color, I'm halfway out the door to buy some shrimp! Your kids will cherish the restaurant meal -- AND your recreation of it -- for many years.

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    1. Oh, good luck Ann! I hope you really like it :)

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  9. I hope you're feeling better and that your cold is gone. I would love to try this bisque. I love sea food. And beef Wellingtons :) Incidentally, I love the mistral. It is blowing tonight and, although pronounced slightly differently, I am sure you will recognise the name - majjistral (the j's sound like y's).

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    1. Loree, I hope you are getting that break from the heat that you and I bear all throughout the hot dry summers. Windows are open here and it has been lovely...finally.

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  10. Your photos are always so stunning! I bookmarked this and plan to make it closer to Christmas. Since there's only me, I've given up on the idea of a traditional turkey or ham and am looking for more reasonable things to make for the holidays. Things that can be made a day or so ahead and then all come together for a special dinner.

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    1. I LOVE to cook for an intimate group. Cooking for the masses is draining and an exercise in detailed planning and timing. Small intimates meals are about quality and beauty...for me.

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  11. This soup looks wonderfully delicious! I love bisque…and this recipe sounds perfect! I make a seafood bisque at Christmas…I will have to give yours a try!

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    1. I so applaud you for making soup for Xmas dinner. I love to have soup before a fancy meal. I tried this one year but everyone seemed to want to get straight thru to the big meal. They sat patiently and complimented my butternut squash bisque but....

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  13. Isn't it wonderful when our children surprise us with their appreciation for good food. My daughter's reactions to new tastes in new countries always takes us aback. Yes, it's such a relief to have moved beyond pasta and chicken fingers :)

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    1. Yes, Pia...it really does seem like they might have lived in "chicken finger world" forever and all of a sudden they are trying all sorts of new items. It always surprises me to see these moments of maturity.

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  14. Wow. When I was 14 I'm sure I didn't even know what beef Wellington was. I adore eating a seafood bisque with its wonderfully aromatic flavour that comes from the shrimp shells. So beautiful!

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    1. Me neither John! At about this age, I remember going to New Orleans with a friend's family. We went to an italian restaurant and they ordered gnocchi. I had no idea what most of the items at the table were but I thought I had died and gone to heaven at that meal!

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  15. Best meal in 14 years? I can believe it. GREG

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  16. The shrimp bisque looks so luxurious!

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  17. I don't know if I've ever told you this but I adore you and P as parents. I remember how my parents took me to 5 star hotel at the French restaurant for my very first liver and onions. I still remember the tableside flambe quite clearly. Where would I be in my gastronomique journey if not for my parents!

    I think you are doing an amazing job building these memories with your kids and they will adore you for it. Such a fine meal. So beautiful. And so is your bisque. If you were serving this to me with a platter of cheese, olives and some rustic bread over fine company such as yours, I would be simply delighted Sarah!

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

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    1. Oh, Devaki, you never fail to make me smile. Very first "Liver and Onions"!! I am just trying to imagine the scene! How wonderful.

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  18. This post reminds me of when I was a kid! I think sometimes we underestimate children and what they will appreciate! I love the French POV that there is no such thing as "kid's food". They eat the same food as the adults are learn the develop a good palate from a very young age. And I think my Dad tried to follow that same philosophy.
    I was a picky eater when I was younger. But my dad would take us to "grown up" restaurants all the time to expose us to new things. I was having a "moment" and refusing to try something that I thought was a bit odd - escargots actually. lol And my Dad said words that to this day I apply, "J, if you dont like how it tastes, you can always spit it out". It was like the heavens opened up after he said that. Nothing I try would kill me - as long as I could spit it out if I didnt like it! lol And you know what? I hardly ever felt to spit anything out and instead experienced a world of new flavours.
    I really love how you capture the spirit of your night out with your family. You have a beautiful way of drawing us into your story and life. Thank you :)

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How wonderful to hear from new friends...