At no time was shrimp bisque ever cooked in our home when we were growing up. That would not be considered a traditional soup and to be quite honest.. it was too fancy and ‘light” compared to the thick hearty soups our mom would make! However with the changing landscape of Caribbean cuisine, it’s quite common to find this wonderful spicy seafood served at restaurants who cater to tourists and expats. Our first experience with shrimp bisque (also had lobster in it) was a cruise we took about 8 years ago to the Southern Caribbean and it made a lasting impression on Myself, Indy and Tehya . Since then we’ve had it several times, including one of the best servings I’ve ever had in a restaurant on the “Avenue” Port Of Spain, Trinidad.
Over the years I’ve perfected this recipe and with the addition of creamy coconut milk and the explosive flavors of scotch bonnet peppers.. I must say that this shrimp bisque will rival any we’ve ever had (even better). There’s no reason why we can’t enjoy the same cuisine tourists enjoying our beautiful islands tend to partake in… so here goes:
1 pound shrimp (see note below)
3 cups water
5 tablespoons butter (divided)
2 scallions (chopped)
1/3 cup celery (diced)
1/4 diced scotch bonnet pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups tomato soup
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon curry powder (I used a Madras blend)
pinch of salt (the tomato soup will already have salt)
pinch of black pepper
Notes: I used shrimp with both the shell and heads on as I needed those parts for making the stock for the bisque. With the scotch bonnet pepper, remember that most of the heat is within the seeds and white membrane surrounding the seeds. Don’t use this area if you want flavor, with a little heat only. Do try to get a good tomato soup and not the cheap canned stuff. I find that type of tomato soup has a sort of metallic taste and is just terrible.
The first step in making this tasty shrimp bisque, is to clean the shrimp and use the heads + shell to make a stock. If you purchased already peeled/deveined shrimp, you may have to use a seafood stock instead. I gave the shrimp a good wash before cleaning as I knew I would be using the shell and heads in the stock. After cleaning the shrimp I heated 2 tablespoons of butter in a deep pan and added the heads and shell of the shrimp on medium heat. You’ll notice that it will change color to a sort of pink/orange color (about 3 minutes). This is when you add the water, bring to a boil and reduce to a gentle simmer. Allow that to simmer for 20 minutes.
Dice the celery, scallions and scotch bonnet pepper. Then in another sauce pan (medium heat) add the remaining butter and as it melts, add the scallions, celery and scotch bonnet pepper. Allow that gently cook for 4-5 minutes.
Now add the flour to the pot and whisk constantly or it will burn.. The idea is to cook the flour and create a roux base for the bisque. The heat should be at min and do allow this to cook for at least 5 mins or we’ll have a raw flour taste at the end. What I forgot to mention to you all is that we need to trim the shrimp a bit. Cut each one in half lengthwise, then cut each strip in two pieces. So each shrimp will give you four pieces.
Now it’s time to assemble the shrimp bisque. Add the tomato soup and strain in the shrimp stock we made. Remember to whisk as you add the tomato soup and do it it first before adding the hot stock or risk getting lumps from the roux. Bring that up to a simmer then add the curry powder, some fresh ground black pepper and the coconut milk. Stir, cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, it’s time to add the pieces of raw shrimp and since shrimp cooks very fast, allow it to cook for 3 minutes. Now check for salt and adjust accordingly. I had to add a pinch for my liking.
You should now have a delicious Caribbean inspired coconut shrimp bisque ready for serving. A thick slice of good bread or coconut bake and you’re good to go. Now if your dad is old school like mine.. don’t dare ask him if he wants some soup and serve him this. He will be expecting salted meats and thick with yam, dasheen, green fig and other provisions he associates with ‘soup’.
Here’s the video of me preparing the shrimp bisque to use as an additional guide: