Ann, Larry, and I had Shrimp Bisque at Nosh a few weeks ago.  I like Nosh – they have challenging food combinations, and you can never really be sure what you’re going to get.  (For example, they have an item called “Stuff & Things” that’s whatever the chef feels like giving you.  Ann and I both ordered it that day, and got two different plates.*)

I’d never made bisque before, and Nosh’s bisque didn’t taste like the bisques I’d had before, so I was doubly screwed.

I started out with Mark Bittman’s shrimp bisque recipe from Kitchen Express, which is something like, “Cook some shrimp and garlic, puree them, and add some broth and tomato paste.” The bisque had tasted almost like something a cajun cook would make, so I decided to consider some spice/char options, too.

I took about a pound and a half of medium shrimp, thawed and drained them, pulled the shells off, and sauteed the shells in olive oil until they started to get black flecks on them.  Then I crushed a few garlic cloves and threw them in for a few minutes.  I added a tablespoon of smoked Hungarian paprika and let that brown.  When everything was starting almost to smoke, I poured in some good sherry vinegar, deglazed the pan, then added a quart of chicken broth.  I simmered that for about an hour while I did something else.

I strained the solids out and reserved the broth.

I sauteed the shrimp and a medium yellow onion, then pureed them with the broth in a blender.

I returned the broth and puree to the pot, added a small can of tomato puree, and let it simmer over low heat for a half hour, again while I scarpered off.

The flavor wasn’t what I wanted, so I added about a tablespoon of salt, another tablespoon of smoked paprika, and some leftover sprigs of thyme.  Then it was just what I wanted – fishy, smoky, and wild-tasting.  Very rich and dark.

Just before serving, I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of cream.  Not much.

Smoky Shrimp Bisque:
1 1/2 lbs medium shrimp with their shells on, thawed and peeled, shells reserved.
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 T smoked Hungarian paprika (chipotles would probably work)
olive oil
Optional: bay leaf
2 T good sherry vinegar (or other mild vinegar, like balsamic or cider)
1 quart chicken broth
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 small can of tomato paste
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or about 1 t dried
2 T cream

Sautee the shells over med-high heat in a little olive oil until they turn pink with black spots (i.e., starting to burn), about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika and saute until the paprika starts to smoke or turn dark brown.

Add the sherry vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken broth and simmer, covered, over low heat for at least 10 minutes. (Optionally, add a bay leaf.) Strain the solids out and discard. Reserve the broth.

Saute the shrimp and onion until the shrimp is barely cooked through. Puree the shrimp and onion in the blender, adding broth to help liquefy the paste. Return the mixture and broth to the pot and add the tomato paste and thyme. Simmer, covered, over low heat for at least ten minutes. Add salt and additional smoked paprika to taste.

Just before serving, stir in the cream.

*I wouldn’t order the Fat Joe Platter again. The bacon fluff sandwich was Too Sweet.