Kitchen Accomplice: Mediterranean seafood bisque

By John Kirkendall

Every once in a while I get a deep yearning for things from the sea and this offering is one of most satisfying I know. 
The stock is the key.  The time you spend with this ingredient is time well spent.
Prepare the stock the day before you plan to serve the soup. Refrigerate it, covered  Bring to room temperature and thoroughly cook it before you proceed with the recipe.
This recipe will start your dinner with flair and if you have some flat bread to accompany it together with an herb butter, it will ensure your dinner is a standout. 

Ingredients
• 3 slices of bacon, roughly chopped (can substitute olive oil or butter, 3 tbsp)
• 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
• 1 large celery stalk, chopped
• 1 large carrot, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
• Zest of 1 orange
• A pinch of cayenne
• A large pinch of saffron
• 1 quart of shellfish stock (Keep in mind – the quality of the stock is the key to the quality of your soup.  Do this well and your bisque will be superb.)
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• Salt to taste
Method
1.  Cook the bacon on medium heat in a 6 to 8 quart pot until it is crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon. Set aside on a paper towel to use for garnish later.
2.  Increase the heat to medium high and add the onions, celery and carrot. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Do not brown. Sprinkle some salt over everything as it cooks.
3.  Add the tomatoes and the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
4.  Add the orange zest, cayenne and saffron, then pour in the shellfish stock or whatever stock you are using. In a pinch you could even use chicken or vegetable stock, but the flavor of the soup will be different. Simmer this gently – do not let it get to a rolling boil – for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Get another pot ready. Fill a blender half-way with the soup and blend it on high for 1 minute, or until it is well puréed. Work in batches to purée the rest of the soup. Pour the puréed soup into the clean pot.
6.  Put the soup on medium-low heat and add the cream. Stir well and taste for salt, adding if needed. Do not let this boil! Or it might break.
Serve garnished with bacon bits or dill fronds. A dry rose or red wine would go well with this; I’d suggest a Beaujolais or a pinot noir.
Serves 4-6.

Shellfish Stock
Ingredients:
•    1 pound each crab, shrimp and crawfish shells (Your fish market is the best source for these and they are inexpensive.)
•    2 onions, chopped
•    2 carrots, sliced
•    2 celery stalks, chopped
•    6 garlic cloves
•    4 sprigs parsley
•    2 bay leaves
•    1 tsp dried thyme
•    6 whole black peppercorns
•    1 lemon, sliced
•    1 gallon cold water
•    3 cups dry white wine or French vermouth

Method:
Ask your seafood supplier to reserve 3 pounds of shellfish shells. Combine all ingredients in a 2-gallon stockpot. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook 45 minutes. During cooking process, skim off all impurities that rise to surface. Add water if necessary to retain volume. Strain stock through cheesecloth or a fine sieve.  (I use a chinoise, one of my favorite kitchen utensils) Return stock to simmer and reduce to 2 quarts.  Freeze what you do not use for the soup.  Better too much than not enough.
Your guests will detect the care and time you have put into this because the taste justifies what you have done. 
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Judge John Kirkendall is a retired Washtenaw County Probate judge. He serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. He is past president of the National College of Probate Judges.
 

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