Bisque is a French type of soup made with crustaceans such as lobster, crayfish, crab, shrimp, or langoustine. It’s a specialty that was discovered in the 17th Century. It’s named after the Biscay Bay that lies along the western coast of France and the northern coast of Spain. However, on one note, it was named in reference to the French word “bis cuites” which means “twice cooked,” for the shells are first sauteéd in the pan, then they are simmered in wine or flavored liquid and aromatics before being puréed, strained and finally add cream. Still, bisque provides a very rich seafood taste. It is smooth and creamy, with a velvety texture similar to purées.
- A truly authentic bisque requires the shells to be pureed.
- Nowadays, bisques can also refer to cream-based soups that are puréed – even without seafood.
- The U.S.A. celebrates the National Seafood Bisque Day every 19th of October.
- Bisques are relatively low in mercury content; they are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, C, and B.
- Rice is sometimes used to thicken the bisque.
Bisque Buying Guide
If you live near the gulf coast, chances are you’re most likely to get the freshest seafood around. However, seafood can sometimes be expensive, especially when they’re not in season. Not to mention that it quite takes time and skills to make the perfect bisque. If you’re craving for a hearty soup that just needs to be reheated or microwaved, here are some tips when you’re buying the ready-made ones:
- Check the ingredient list. Since bisques are made with seafood, it should be high in protein. If you see that it has more carbohydrates than that of protein, it means that the flavor is enhanced with artificial flavorings and sweeteners, and not with actual seafood. Remember, any cream-based soup can be labeled as bisque even if they don’t contain any seafood at all.
- Look for the bad stuff. Preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated oils can weaken your heart tissues and can contribute to weight gain. I’m sure you don’t want that.
- Campbell’s canned seafood bisque doesn’t contain all the bad stuff. You can also check out other famous brands such as Heinz, Bar Harbor, and Chincoteague.
On the other hand, if you’re enthusiastic about making your own bisque with the best key ingredients, here are some tips when buying live crustaceans:
- Crabs and lobsters. Look for signs of activity; lobsters should snap and crabs should flap their claws occasionally. Lobster tails should also re-curl once touched. If it doesn’t, it means the lobster isn’t any good.
- Prawns, shrimps, and langoustines. You want to buy the ones with shiny shells and bright jet black eyes that show lively movements. Then, look for black spots on its head and body as this is an indication that the meat has started to break down and is not as fresh as you think it is. It’s better to buy the frozen ones if this is the case. When you do, look for IQF as this means that the products are less damaged when they were frozen. Never go for the ones with freezer burns.
Bisque Production & Farming in Texas
While it is possible to find good quality seafood and bisques in large supermarkets such as H-E-B and Natural Grocers, the state of Texas also features countless numbers of seafood farms as it is situated near the coast. In 2008, it was reported that the state itself was responsible for approximately 87% of the shrimp production in the U.S., and 99% of which came from exchanging farms. Not to mention that the state features the clean water of its bays and estuaries.
If you don’t have the time to visit the coastline, you may check out our website and look for farmers who would love to deliver the products right to your doorstep. Or, you may visit your local farmers’ market where they showcase thousands of local and top-notch quality items.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Although it is more convenient to buy ready-made bisques, we cannot control that some commercially produced ones contain preservatives and additives that are not good for anyone, especially if we consume it in a large quantity. We’ve gone through some grocers and took a look at their ingredients list. Luckily, most of them doesn’t contain the bad stuff. However, here’s what we found on a few that does:
- MSG – Monosodium Glutamate is used to enhance the flavor of almost any product. It is the one responsible for creating that umami flavor. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it can cause headaches, flushing, palpitations, sweating, nausea, numbness, and weakness to some people. It allegedly can cause asthma, brain damages, and even cancer; however, these allegations remained controversial.
- Modified Food Starch – this additive is usually made with wheat, potato, corn, or tapioca. It acts as a binding agent, thickener, stabilizer, and preservative. This additive offers empty calories – they provide no nutritional value, yet it adds a considerable amount of carbohydrates which can promote weight gain. This ingredient should also be avoided by someone who is gluten intolerant.
Commercially prepared bisques are commonly packaged in cans and pouches that are meant for one-time use. On the other hand, artisan-made bisques come in mason jars.
While bisques are typically eaten by itself as an appetizer or a stand-alone meal, it can also be wonderfully paired with various foods such as freshly-baked bread, sandwiches, salads, fruit and cheese platters, and even kebabs or skewers. If you’re hosting a party, you can also serve bisques on a shot glass. Top it off with a mini shrimp cocktail skewer for that extra zing and embellishment.
Commercially prepared bisques can last up to 18 months in the freezer. Once opened, transfer them into the refrigerator and consume within 3-4 days.
Since freshly made bisques don’t have preservatives, unless you add one, it can only last for a couple of days in the refrigerator and two months in the freezer. Make sure that when you do store them, your containers are clean, dry, and air-tight, and your bisques are at room temperature before you seal them. Remember, bacterias thrive in moist and warm environments.
Bring on the Bisque!
So, you finally got your seafood. What’s next? It’s time to make and bring on the bisque! Well, it’s best if you have seafood stock available, as it concentrates the flavor even more. But if you don’t, fret not, as this quick recipe will surely satisfy you and your family:
Yield: 12 servings
- 1 lb butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 bunch green onions (spring, scallions, or leeks)
- 2 cups seafood stock/ seafood broth/ white wine/ water
- 2 cups water
- 1 ½ lb shrimp, shell on or shell off
- 1 lb crawfish meat
- ½ lb crab meat
- 2 quarts heavy cream (or you can use 1-quart heavy cream and 1-quart half-half or milk)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
- Herbs and spices (optional)
- Melt butter in a large pot and sauté onions in it.
- Make a roux by adding flour to the butter, and mix it until it forms a paste consistency.
- Add your flavored liquid and water, then add all the meat.
- Simmer for 45 minutes while stirring occasionally.
- If you used shelled shrimps, this is the time that you would have to pureé the soup using a handheld blender or a food processor. Otherwise, pureéing is completely optional.
- If you pureéd your soup, make sure to strain them in a cheesecloth. Then return on the fire over low heat.
- Add in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. You can add tomato paste and your favorite herbs and spices for extra flavor. Serve and enjoy.