Chunky Shrimp Bisque

How an etouffee got this name, and a Gulf shrimp primer.

If you compare this recipe to Yesterdish’s shrimp etouffee (pictured at left), you won’t find many differences–in fact, I’d argue you wouldn’t find any substantive differences. So why do you sometimes find this called a bisque?

The classic French bisque is a soup made from crustaceans, typically lobster or crab, where the shells are cooked and turned into a stock, then some of the meat is blended with the aromatics to produce a thick base. (Typically these are the pieces that would be too small to meaningfully present.) Usually, in American preparations, we don’t blend the meat back in. But then there’s this sort of a recipe. It really stems from the casual Louisiana tradition of serving etouffee that didn’t reduce long enough as a bisque, because “runny etouffee” doesn’t sound nearly as appetizing.

But having done that, the result is we find cards for “shrimp bisque” that aren’t soups at all.

All of that said, let’s look at some shrimp. This box is from North Carolina, and believe it or not, the species of shrimp you catch in the Southeast on the Atlantic coast, even as far north as Maryland, are all collectively called “Gulf shrimp,” even though the three species aren’t quite the same and you’re not really anywhere near the Gulf.

About 13 in every 20 shrimp caught in North Carolina is a brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus), which has a stronger flavor and firmer texture than the other Gulf varieties. For a recipe like this one with bold flavors, I’d go with the brown shrimp.
About 6 in 20 shrimp caught in North Carolina is a white shrimp (Penaeus setiferus). These have a very mild flavor and a delicate texture that’s almost more like a succulent piece of whitefish than a crustacean. That makes them ideal for whitefish-like treatments, like fried shrimp or shrimp with lemon and butter.
Finally, one in every 20 shrimp caught in North Carolina is a pink shrimp (Penaeus duorarum). These tend to be the most prized primarily for their firm texture that almost “pop” in your mouth when they’re seared properly. Because of their sweeter flavor, consider them for shrimp and grits.

From the box of L.R. from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Shrimp Bisque

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch dry mustard and cayenne pepper
2 tsp. paprika
3 Tbsp. flour
4 c. fish stock
1 spring thyme
bay leaf
8 oz. raw peeled shrimp
salt and pepper
snipped chives

  1. Melt butter and add onion, pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook gently to soften.
  2. Stir in mustard, cayenne, paprika, and flour. Cook about 3 minutes over gentle heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour on the stock gradually, stirring until well blended.
    Add the thyme and bay leaf and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

  4. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and curled, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with snipped [chives] before serving.

(Prep takes abut 20 minutes and cooking about 8-10 minutes.)

Note: If using peeled and cook shrimp add just before serving and heat through for about 2 minutes only.

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