Cooking with Vanilla: Shrimp and Corn Bisque

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Makes 6 to 8 servings

Crabs, oysters, or scallops may be used instead of or in addition to the shrimp in this soup.

• 4 tablespoons butter
• 1 cup thinly sliced celery
• 1 cup thinly sliced green onion
• 1 large clove garlic, mashed
• 4 tablespoons flour
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 4 cups chicken stock
• 1 three-inch piece vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped to loosen
• 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sweet ­marjoram
• 3 large bay leaves
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 2 cups small corn kernels, fresh or frozen
• 1 to 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp, cut in small pieces if large
• 5/8–1 cup sherry or vermouth
• Chopped fresh parsley as garnish

1. Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan. Sauté the celery, green onion, and garlic until soft but not brown. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to mix well. Add the wine and stock, whisking to blend. Bring to a boil and add the vanilla, tarragon, sweet marjoram, and bay leaves. Reduce the heat and simmer and 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sharpness of the wine has disappeared and the flavors have mellowed. Add the cream, salt, pepper, and cayenne; raise the heat to medium high and cook 3 to 5 minutes longer, or until heated through. Adjust the seasoning. Remove the vanilla bean pieces with a slotted spoon or tongs. (Rinse the bean pieces, air-dry, then store for reuse.)

2. The soup base may be prepared up to this point several days in advance and refrigerated. At serving time, reheat it over medium heat to near boiling, stirring often. Add the corn kernels and shrimp and simmer 10 minutes longer, or until the shrimp are brightly colored and the soup is heated through. Stir often to prevent sticking. Ladle the soup into hot bowls and add 1 to 2 tablespoons sherry or vermouth to each serving. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.


Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay are a well-known pair of longtime chefs and herb gardeners who make their home in the tiny town of Round Top in central Texas.

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