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Shrimp Bisque And Stock

Shrimp shells and heads, carrots, celery and other ingredients in a stock pot
Jessica Strelitz for NPR

Making stock from scratch is time-consuming but very simple, and it builds a flavor-packed foundation for this rich, savory soup and for the risotto. To clean the shrimp, rinse the body, put your fingers at the base of the head and pull it off whole, being careful not to stick yourself with the spiny head. Then pinch the tail and pull off the rest of the shell. There is no vein to remove. I omitted the bay leaf from the recipe from The Union Oyster House Cookbook: Recipes and History from America's Oldest Restaurant (Seapoint Books 2008) because I don't care for it, but add one if you're a fan. Remember that shrimp is the star; a little sherry goes a long way. You want to feel the depths of the bisque's flavor layers, not get drunk off it.

Shrimp bisque
Jessica Strelitz for NPR /

Makes 4 cups or more of stock; 6 servings of bisque as a starter, 4 as an entree

2 pounds Maine shrimp, shells and heads on

1 cup dry vermouth (or dry white wine)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons butter, divided

Olive oil

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped shallots or diced white onion

1/2 a medium-sized fennel bulb (or whole small), roughly sliced

1/2 cup chopped carrot

2 tablespoons white flour

3 tablespoons tomato paste

5 to 6 crumbled saffron threads

Kosher salt, to taste

White pepper, to taste

Old Bay Seasoning, to taste

Dry mustard, to taste

2 cups light cream

3 tablespoons sherry

For Stock

Clean the shrimp, removing heads and shells. Set aside shells and heads.

Combine the vermouth (or dry white wine) and 1 cup water and bring to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the shells and heads and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove everything from the pot, reserving the liquid.

In the same pot, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with a splash of olive oil. Add celery, shallots, fennel and carrots and stir until soft. Return shells, heads and liquid mixture to pot and simmer for 25 minutes.

Strain the liquid though a colander, pressing on the solids.

For Bisque

In a medium sauce pot, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in flour to form a roux. Cook for 4 minutes on low, making sure all flour is incorporated but careful not to burn.

Whisk in shrimp stock and simmer entire mixture until smooth. Add tomato paste, saffron, salt, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning and dry mustard to taste.

Add 1 cup of the raw shrimp meat, cream and sherry and heat through. Do not bring to a boil. Serve hot.

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