I spent much of my 20s in living in Manhattan and spending weekends in the summer on Fire Island. Fire Island is a 13-mile span of beach off of Long Island and it’s basically two blocks wide surrounded by ocean and bay, and there are no cars. It’s a beach lover’s paradise. You get there by ferry and as soon as you get to the ferry terminal, you can smell the sea and already begin to be in weekend mode.
There’s a seafood shack at the ferry terminal in Bay Shore called Nicky’s that makes the best clam chowder and lobster bisque that I have ever had. As the summer approaches I always think of their chowder and bisque even though I live thousands of miles away. The only downside of really good clam chowder – we’re talking New England style – and lobster bisque is the high content of cream and fat. So, I set out to see if I could create a seafood bisque that is thick and hearty, has plenty of clam influence, and is low fat.
I use a white russet potato that cooks in the soup before being pureed with the other ingredients to help give the bisque some texture and heartiness. And at the end I add just 2 tablespoons of cream, which having tasted the soup without it, could actually be considered optional. This bisque is high in favor. It doesn’t have the creaminess but it does have a thick consistency, which comes from puréeing the seafood, leeks, celery and potato. With hardly any fat per serving, it’s a great recipe for summer bisque.
The first step in making this bisque is to make the stock. I use three 8-oz bottles of clam juice and 5 cups of water to which I add the shells of the shrimp wrapped in cheesecloth for easy, clean removal after about 15 minutes of simmering. Then to this stock I add the clams and cook them until they open, about 8-10 minutes. When the clams are done, remove them from the shells, draining any liquid into the stock and reserve the clams and discard the shells. It is good to note that this bisque is heavy on clams. If you prefer a less clammy taste, then use a half pound less clams and a half a pound more of the scallops or shrimp.
Once the broth is made, sauté the leeks and celery in one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of butter in a Dutch oven, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. As leeks and celery cook, peel and dice the potato. Add garlic, salt, pepper, paprika and saffron to celery leek mixtures and cook 2 more minutes. Then add the flour and cook 2 minutes before adding the stock, tomato paste, bay leaves, sherry, and potato. Cook 30 minutes.
In a sauté pan, add remaining tablespoon of butter and cook the shrimp 2 minutes per side and remove from pan. Add 3/4 of shrimp to soup and cut the remaining shrimp in pieces and set aside. To the sauté pan, add the scallops and cook 2-3 minutes, then add the sherry and deglaze the pan. Add ¾ of the scallops plus any juices in the pan to the soup and reserve the rest of the scallops. Add 3/4 of the clams to soup and cut the remaining 1/4 in pieces and set aside. Purée the soup using an immersion blender or a regular blender. For extra creaminess you may want to do both, first the immersion blender, then add the soup to a regular blender. Add the soup back to pot and heat through slightly. Add the two tablespoons of cream add the reserved seafood and serve.
Low-Fat Seafood Bisque
1 lb shrimp in shell , peeled deveined shells reserved
1/2 lb bay scallops
2 lbs little neck clams
1 large leek sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon EVOO
2 tablespoons butter
2 bay leaves
3 8oz bottles clam juice
3 garlic cloves sliced
2 tablespoons Einkorn flour or rice flour or regular flour
2 teaspoons paprika
5 cups water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons of sherry
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
Make stock: Add clam juice plus 5 cups water, and shells in cheese cloth and simmer 15 minutes. Disregard shrimp shells squeezing liquid out if cheesecloth. Add clams and cook until fully open about 8-10 minutes. Disregard any clams that are not open. Takes clams out of shell, draining any liquid into stock. Disregard shells. and reserve clams for later.
To a Dutch oven, sauté leeks and celery in one tablespoon of and one tablespoon of butter until the leeks are soft, for about 10 minutes,. As leeks and celery cook, peel and dice potato. Add garlic, salt and pepper, and saffron to celery leek mixture and cook 2 more minutes. Add flour and cook 2 minutes. Add stock, tomato paste, bay leaves, sherry, potato, paprika and cook covered for 30 minutes.
In a sauté pan, add remaining tablespoon of butter and cook the shrimp 2 minutes per side and remove from pan. Add 3/4 of shrimp to stock and cut the remaining shrimp in pieces and set aside. Add scallops to the pan and cook 2-3 minutes. Add the sherry and deglaze the pan. Add ¾ of the scallops plus any juices in the pan to the soup and reserve the rest of the scallops. Add ¾ of the clams to soup and cut the remaining clams in pieces and set aside. Purée the soup using an immersion blender or a regular blender. Add the pureed soup back to the Dutch oven and add the cream and reserved seafood. Mix through and serve.