Friday, April 30, 2010

Cooking with the New York Times

RUSTIC SHRIMP BISQUE. I try lots of recipes from the Wednesday New York Times, mostly Mark Bittman's, and I'm now paying attention to Melissa Clark. I bought several pounds of fresh Maine shrimp in January and froze what I didn't use in one pound bags. In a February column for rustic shrimp bisque Clark told how her parents made their own shrimp-shell stock and glaze. Who would do something so time-consuming? Hmmm. So last week I moved shrimp from the freezer to the refrigerator and when they were thawed enough to separate without breaking, I took the shells off. Turns out it's easy to shell shrimp when they are very cold. I knew I was on a worthwhile project almost as soon as I began. 

The shells are sauteed in butter and salt for a few minutes; then the liquids are added. First in are white wine and brandy which are cooked down; then come the water and herbs. It's only a fifteen minute simmer before straining. Not difficult at all. Beginning to feel smug. At this point I paused - refrigerated the stock for use later in the day. The short of it: it's a delicious soup, warm, spicy, vaguely Cajun. Fennel, leeks, garlic and celery ribs are cooked until softened and added to sauteed shrimp. Clark uses a handful of rice and a little tomato paste which, once you give it all a whirl in the blender, gets you bisque without adding cream. One important note: she calls for a "pinch" of cayenne. This is too subtle for me -  go for a Julia Child "pinch," not baseball-sized but not lady-like either. And freeze what you don't eat - it gets better.

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