Shrimp bisque, an Easter dinner entrée

Shrimp bisque with cognac and peeled shrimps

Decorate with a dusting of cayenne pepper and tarragon and maybe a few neatly peeled shrimps.
Photo © Jan-Erik Nilsson for CMC, 2009

Easter is upcoming and I have already started to think about dishes I feel would fit the season. Right now I believe salmon would be great, lamb cutlets are always a temptation and maybe a chicken baked whole and stuffed with some crisp apples would be fine.

We’ll see. The options are many but I have already started planning and that is always a beginning. In the mean time, considering the world’s finance crisis, I thought I’d like to share my best luxurious and least expensive dish ever- Lobster Bisque on a shoestring.

What usually happens when preparing a shellfish meal is that the meaty parts are put to good use whilst the shells of these crustaceans are discarded. The economy in this is that you can use every bit of those crustaceans, separating the meat from the shells and saving the shells for this dish. Here we are replacing lobster with shrimps.

This is a delicate entrée or starter, or something you can serve in-between dishes as a surprise. It fits well to be served in a cup. The value of this dish lies in its exclusivity. It will be a magic wake up call to the guests, and make them very hungry for the next dish. Ideally it should be tied into the whole meal so that the meat parts of the shellfish appear somewhere else. Here I don’t use beurre manie as thickener but whipped cream instead. This is my preferred way of simplifying the cooking, improve the flavor and texture, and mystify my guests.

The following serves 4 to 6 persons.

Peel shrimps
Peel 500 grams (1 lbs) of cooked medium sized shrimps. Put heads and shells, and peeled shrimps in separate bowls. In Sweden shrimps will come salted and might benefit from a slight rinsing in cold water before peeling. If your shrimps are cooked without salt you will need to add some salt to the finished stock.

Prepare stock
Prepare the stock by peeling and dicing 3 shallots, (1 carrot and 1 celery stalk are optional). Melt 2 tbs butter in a pot. Braise until soft. Add the shells, roe, heads and all into the pot. Add 1-2 dried chillies, or less if you are not so used to spicy food, and 2 tbs tomato paste. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of white wine and braise under lid at low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. If you actually use lobster shells, extend the time to an hour.

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