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Apr 25, 2010 12:18 PM

A question about Saveur's shrimp bisque made from shells

I've been saving shrimp shells in the freezer for a couple months and now have six cups (I think -- measuring is a bit problematic. How packed should they be?). My main question, though, is about whether I should remove the shells before pureeing. The recipe says to cook tomatoes, onions, carrots, and celery in butter, then add the shells and rice and cook that; add some tomato paste, then some brandy, finally add water and an herb bundle. Then after simmering all that it says to remove the herb bundle, puree, and then strain, adding cream, lemon juice and cayenne at the end. That's it. Only, pureeing the shells seems --- weird. Should I do it?

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  1. Oooh I am very interested in hearing what others say about this. I am in the same situation - I have 2 baggies of shrimp shells in the freezer too. I was considering the same recipe but really didn't want to puree the shells either. Some of the shells I have are soft but others are quite hard, from large shrimp, and it didn't seem quite right to me either.

    1. If you don't have a very fine strainer (a chinoise, or very fine mesh), you should remove the shells first. If you do have a very fine strainer, then you don't have to. There is nothing poisonous about shrimp shells, and the texture of the final product is gonna be determined mostly by your strainer. A fine strainer would keep any shell bits large enough to detect out of the finished product. And pureeing the mixture with the shells still in might give you just a bit more flavor release from the shells.

      If you're still concerned about the texture after straining once, you can strain repeatedly or strain through a few layers of cheesecloth in addition to your strainer.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cowboyardee

        I agree that you will get more flavour by pureeing the shells. After you strain the mixture through cheesecloth (sitting in a sieve) pull out the cheesecloth and squeeze it to get every last drop of liquid.

      2. this is perhaps not quite on point to the saveur recipe, but i always treat shrimp bisque as a two-step affair--make the shrimp stock, strain it, then start over with new vegetables and make the bisque. (i use a different vegetable base for the stock and the final bisque. any way.) this one-pot version seems a bit like bisque-quick.

        2 Replies
        1. re: silverhawk

          That's the way I've seen it done more traditionally. Personally, I wonder whether using two sets of vegetables makes for a better soup. As long as there is enough flavor development from that first set, I don't see much of a need for a second one.

          On the other hand, fresh vegetables, not cooked very long, might lend a fresher flavor to the finished bisque since longer-cooked liquids tend to lose their brighter and more volatile flavors while simmering. I've recently been messing around with making a lot of my stocks and soups in a pressure cooker. It is very fast and it creates a lot a flavor transfer from the vegetables/shells to the liquid. And the nicest thing is if you don't let it get quite hot enough to vent steam, and you let it cool a bit before you open and use it, many of the volatile flavor compounds that we associate with freshness settle back into the stock. Cooking it under high pressure without ventilation leaves it tasting really full and bright at the same time - a delicious bisque-o'-tech.

          1. I finally made the bisque because the shells were taking up too much room in the freezer. I omitted the celery, but otherwise followed the recipe. I used an immersion blender on the shells and to my surprise it didn't break. The strained bisque is very smooth. It's on the bland side. The lemon juice helped. Not sure I'll bother doing it again.