“Bisque” is a beautiful word we associate with smoothness and perfection. It derives from the French biscuit and refers to an early thickening technique for bisques—that of adding bread or crackers. Today, of course, we associate bread-thickened soups with more rustic fare, and delicate bisques with rice. Ever since the time of Escoffier, bisques have been rice-thickened—a superior means, we think, of preserving their delicacy, the signature characteristic of this fine soup.
It is interesting to note that for his bisques, Escoffier chose the best rice available in Europe at the time: Carolina Gold.
This bisque is based on a gorgeous recipe I (Kay) developed for Cook’s Illustrated magazine some years ago. The recipe offers a convenient, effective approach for extracting flavor from shrimp, doesn’t take all day in the kitchen, and it lets you think of bisque in a pleasant, dreamy way. For the version below, I was also able to offer what I regard as improvements to the original recipe: one, in particular, is the addition of rice flour.
Our bisque brings Charleston new crop Carolina Gold rice together with the best of the lowcountry’s fall season white shrimp. It has a luxuriantly silken swallow, a maddeningly beautiful hue, and an enticing, subtle flavor layering. Serve it as a first course and it will carry the conversation for the rest of the meal.