I finally got around to using up the assorted shellfish shells I'd frozen over the past several months. I had shells from shrimp, crabs, clams and mussels tucked away and intended to make bisque when I had the time. I must say, this did take most of the afternoon, but man was it worth it! And the aroma! I got hungrier and hungrier as the afternoon went on, just smelling the stock! And that was only the first part...
Thanks to Elise at SimplyRecipes, I had a great shellfish stock from which to build the bisque. In fact, this seafood bisque is based on her Crab Bisque recipe with some slight modifications.
I put the shells into a pot and covered them with about another inch of cold water. Gently heat them to just below a boil, then let them not quite simmer for about an hour. I turned it down and let it keep warm until I was ready to continue.
Add some onion, celery, carrot, parsley, thyme and bay leaf, white wine vinegar, about 2 Tbsp. tomato paste and some smoked peppercorns. Let that go for 30 - 45 mins. Let this cool for quite a while. Strain and set aside.
Brown about a third cup of shallots and some garlic and mushrooms in 2 Tbsp butter in the stockpot. When translucent, work in 2T tomato paste and 1/4 cup white rice. Let the rice brown for a minute or two. Add some white wine vinegar and the reserved 4 cups of seafood stock from earlier. Stir. Let this go for about 25 - 30 mins.
Add a can of minced clams with the juice. Stir to combine. Gently put in a pound of fresh mussels. Be sure to check them first to make sure they're all closed up tight. Almost as soon as you put them in, they'll start to open up. Let them simmer for about 5 - 6 minutes, then when they seem to be just about all opened up, remove the soup from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
Remove the mussels from the soup. Set them aside.
CAREFULLY add the soup to a blender (do this in batches if necessary) and blend until smooth. You can also use a stick blender for this but be careful with the hot liquid. When smooth, put back in the soup pot. Slowly add about a cup and a half of half and half or cream, whisking as you pour it in.
Taste and season as needed. I used a tiny bit of Old Bay Seasoning in mine. A touch of nutmeg would be a good alternative.
Remove the meat from about half of the mussels. (Be sure to DISCARD any that do not open up.) Put some of the meat in the serving bowls and ladle bisque over it, or put it in the soup pot with the bisque. Either way, after the bisque is in the bowl, add some of the whole mussels in the shell to each serving. Garnish with croutons.
Just in case we wanted to add it, I put some Old Bay and some hot sauce out on the table when we were ready to eat. I am proud to say that neither of us added a thing to this delicious bisque!