Imagine holding a warm bowl of creamy, rich and smooth French style seafood bisque that tastes like it has been braised slowly for hours, and perhaps accompanied by some freshly baked Yorkshire puddings on a cold winter night.
The dish that I would always order in a French restaurant if I see one in the menu – Seafood Bisque (Bisque de fruits de mer). First time trying seafood bisque a few years back and it has officially became my most favourited French dish, followed by Croissants and Mussels in White Wine (Moules Marinières).
It’s unbelievably rich and flavourful. Every mouthful is bursting with seafood flavour with a hint of white wine. The texture of the bisque is quite creamy and smooth, and because it’s quite rich you would feel satisfied even if only having a small bowl. It’s comforting yet feels elegant at the same time. Even if it’s classified as appetizer in the menu I would be quite satisfied just by having a bowl of these and wouldn’t need the main course anymore.
Even at home I have also been making this French seafood bisque for a couple of times now (previously also uploaded the picture on Instagram) because eating in the restaurant is quite pricey.
The most important element in this bisque would be the shells and heads from prawns. So whenever I cook prawns, I would always purchase the fresh intact prawns so I can save the heads and shells in several ziplock bags and just accumulate them in the freezer until I have about enough (like half a kilogram) to make a big pot of seafood soup.
The one trick that I always use to bring out the flavour of these prawn heads and shells more effectively is to crush them in a mortar with a pestle. This way the juice from the prawn heads which is the core flavour of the soup would not stuck inside the shells but will come out and blend with other ingredients in the cooking process. The soup will have a richer seafood flavour later on.
I also love to add some shellfishes like mussels or clams to really enhance the flavour even more. When the seafood soup is almost ready, I just steamed some mussels until the shells opened up and the water begins to accumulate around the mussels. The water which contains the juice from mussels will then be added into the seafood bisque.
The soup is not only limited to prawns and mussels. I just like to use both of them since they are two of my most favourited seafood ingredients and also pretty affordable. Sometimes I also use salmon or other white fishes, even scallops and crabs as well to make this French seafood bisque really gourmet looking.
Because it takes a while to cook, I normally make a bigger batch (the recipe below is for 8 servings!) so I can freeze the remaining leftover for several weeks and just reheat it when I feel hungry after coming home from work and have no time to cook dinner.
Normally this French seafood bisque would be eaten with slices of crusty bread or French baguettes but I was craving for some Yorkshire puddings at the time so I tried pairing the soup with these puddings. It was such a good substitute, especially when the puddings are still very warm and a bit custardy on the inside.
If you would like to make your own puddings, you can check out the recipe on how to make the perfect Yorkshire Puddings from SeriousEats.
- 500 gr prawn heads and shells
- 1 leek, roughly chopped
- 2 celeries stalks, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 onions, roughly sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 litre fish stock
- 1 litre water
- 500 ml white wine
- 150 ml cream, plus another 50 ml for garnish
- 100 gr flour
- 50 gr butter
- 500 gr mussels, cleaned and beard removed
- 250 gr peeled prawns with tails intact
- Crush prawn heads and shells with mortar and pestle, then place them in a big pot. Add 25 gr of butter and saute for 3-4 minutes until the prawn shells colour turns orange.
- Add chopped leek, celeries, carrots, onions, garlic, tomato paste and saute for another 2-3 minutes before adding fish stock, water, and white wine. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer for around 1 hour and 15 minutes. Alternatively if you have a pressure cooker, transfer them from the pan into the pressure cooker pot and cook in high pressure for 40 minutes.
- While the soup is cooking, saute the peeled prawns with butter for 3-4 minutes until cooked and set aside. Steam mussels until the shells are opened up and the water around begins to accumulate around the mussels. Reserve the water in a bowl.
- When the soup is done, add the mussel juice into the pot and separate the solids and liquids by straining them. Place the strained soup in a large pot however don't discard the solids just yet. Place them in a large blender and add a cup of liquids. Blend them until broken up into little pieces. Strain it again through a sieve into the pot of soup and you can discard the remaining solids this time.
- Return the pot onto a burner and bring to simmer. Mix flour with a glass of water and add to the soup to make it thicker. Add cream and season to taste.
- To serve, place soup in a bowl, drizzle with a tablespoon of cream and add mussels and prawns.