Shrimp Bisque à la Escoffier Recipe

Shrimp Bisque

A traditional seafood soup inspired by the master of modern cooking, Auguste Escoffier. He uses the shrimp shells, which one normally discards, to prepare the fumet. It definitely makes a shrimp bisque tastier and while it was innovative at his time, it is now standard procedure. Escoffier’s recipe is French classical cooking, the ‘haute cuisine’. I follow more the Mediterranean tradition, where flour is rarely added to soups or sauces.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 60 minutes


  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb (450 g) large-size shrimps with shells, peeled, deveined and shells reserved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced into rounds
  • 1 1/2 celery stalk, sliced in rounds
  • 1 cup (240 ml) dry white wine
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) light or crème fraîche
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice or to taste
Shrimp Bisque with Shrimp Tails


Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add shrimp shells and cook stirring frequently until shells begin to turn reddish-brown about 5 minutes. Add 1 bay leaf and 6 cups of water. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain shell stock with a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl. Reserve liquid and discard shells and bay leaf.

Return shrimp stock to medium heat and add shrimps. Cook them just until they turn pink, 2-3 minutes. Remove them from stock with a slotted spoon and set them aside on a plate.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, leek and celery. Cook vegetables for about 20 minutes or until they are very soft. Add wine and cook it down until almost all is evaporated. Add tomato paste, shrimp shell stock, remaining bay leaf, parsley, thyme, cayenne pepper and cook it for 10 minutes longer. Taste for salt and pepper.

Discard bay leaf, parsley and thyme twigs. Purée vegetable mix in a blender until smooth. Strain it again to remove any leftover solids. Stir in light cream or crème fraîche. Add shrimps and lemon juice, salt and pepper. Reheat gently and serve with toasted french bread on the side.

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