This recipe came about because I bought a big bag of frozen shrimp on sale...and it was pretty darn bland. Not good enough for shrimp cocktail (really) but because it was already cooked, not good for using in a pasta dish. What to do?
We had had a very tasty shrimp bisque at the bar, Drink Cafe, in Lakewood, OH. Never one to leave well enough alone, I decided to come up with my own version, keeping the Drink's innovation of adding shredded carrots to the mix. Don't knock it until you've tried it. This soup is a little bit spicy, a little bit rich and a wonderful way to use (or stretch) shrimp.
And yes, this recipe has more ingredients (and more steps) than your normal Cook Loose recipe, but it doesn't take very long, is VERY easy to get right, and this soup you can serve to the Queen of England should she chance to drop in. This always impresses.
In a two quart or larger saucepan, melt the 1 T of butter over medium heat. Add the celery and onions and the pinch of salt and sweat them (cook them slowly, don't brown) until the onions start to turn translucent. Add the tomato paste and stir through, simmering for a minute or so. Mix in the carrots and garlic, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Put the pile of cooked veggies off to the side in a bowl.
Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in the same saucepan, add the flour and whisk (you're making a roux?) to make sure there are no lumps, then cook for a few minutes to get out the raw flour taste. Add the broth to the mixture, whisking to avoid lumps. Add the cognac and all spices, and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes or so. It will thicken some at this point but will not be thick, more like smooth.
Add the shrimp. If you started with raw shrimp (preferable) bring the soup back to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. If you started with cooked shrimp, just bring the soup back to a simmer.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the 1/2 and 1/2, pour into the broth, and bring back to a simmer. The bisque will thicken more. Turn off the heat, ladle into a bowl and dig in. If you are high class serve as is. If you are like the rest of us, oyster crackers or saltines are really good with this.