Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chorizo & Shrimp Tortilla Bisque

Happy almost Cindo de Mayo! This date originally marked a battle victory by Mexican soldiers over the French in the 19th century, but Cinco de Mayo has since been taken up by Mexicans and Mexico-lovers across the US to celebrate Mexican pride and culture. Growing up in south Texas, Mexican culture was a big part of our regional identity, and my home town regularly celebrated Mexican and Tex-Mexican holidays in style. The color, cheer, and community enthusiasm of these events made a lasting impression. Every April-May, the time of San Antonio's city-wide Fiesta, shortly followed by Cinco de Mayo, I get a little nostalgic for my Tex-Mex roots. But a Mexican food dinner (fajitas; ceviche tacos?!) with a corona or margarita quickly recalls these vibrant celebrations.

We've got some amigos together to hit the town tonight to mark Cinco de Mayo and try out a new restaurant in Sydney's Surrey Hills: Mexico Food & Liquor. The atmosphere looks great, the food looks fresh and creative, and there are 70+ tequilas on the menu. Fantastico! I might be most excited about the buñuelos with xocolate and pinenut crema. I haven't had Mexican buñuelos in forever. They can best be described as large, fried tortillas, dusted with cinnamon and sugar. My mom used to bring big, crispy stacks of them home from a nearby Mexican bakery, and one of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants in San Antonio used to serve their huevos rancheros with a side of fresh fruit placed in a little buñuelo bowl. Yum.

chorizo & shrimp tortilla bisque @ SouthernSpoon blog
Tortilla-style soup: a thick bisque of roasted bell peppers, shrimp, and chorizo,
topped with corn, roasted peppers, avocado, fresh herbs, sour cream, and crispy tortilla strips
We got into the Cinco de Mayo mood last night with a sort-of tortilla soup dinner. I ended up creating more of a thick puree rather than a broth-based soup, and we used shrimp and chorizo rather than the typical shredded chicken. The only tortillas are crisped up and served on top as a garnish, rather than stirred into the broth like a traditional tortilla soup. So this really isn't tortilla soup at all. It's a spicy roasted bell pepper bisque with shrimp, chorizo, and a generous portion of Tex-Mex tortilla soup-themed garnishes. But you'll love it, and it goes down well with either wine or a light Mexican beer.
chorizo & shrimp tortilla bisque garnishes @ SouthernSpoon blog
garnishes ready to serve with chorizo & shrimp bisque
We have allergies to tomatoes in this house, so the roasted bell peppers were a great substitution for the tomatoes in traditional tortilla soup. If you're short on time, just use a drained can of peeled tomatoes instead of the roasted bell peppers, and you could also substitute a 1/2 cup of corn cooked from frozen for the fresh corn on the cob. To make the bisque vegetarian, replace the chorizo and shrimp with a can of drained black beans, stirring them into the soup at the end as you heat it over the stove. The chorizo isn't strictly necessary, but adds great flavor and texture to this bisque. Happy eating, and enjoy your fifth of May whether or not you celebrate Tex-Mex style!

chorizo & shrimp tortilla bisque @ SouthernSpoon blog
delicious chorizo & shrimp tortilla bisque

Chorizo & Shrimp Tortilla Bisque
serves 3 as a main dish, 6 as a starter or side dish
adapted from Jeanine Donofrio of Love and Lemons at Camille Styles

4 large red and yellow bell peppers (I used 3 red and 1 yellow; divided use)
1 brown onion
3 garlic cloves (whole, unpeeled)
1 jalapeño or chili (I used a bird's eye chili)
1 large ear of corn on the cob, green leaves and silks removed
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
dash of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup coursely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup shrimp (peeled and deveined; raw or cooked)
1 small link cooked chorizo sausage, coursely chopped or crumbled (about 1/3 cup)
1 lime
small pinch of freshly-ground sea salt

To Serve: 
1 tortilla (use a gluten-free corn tortilla if cooking g-f)
1/4 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt (cashew cream if cooking dairy-free?)
1 avocado, coursely diced
1/4 cup of the above red bell peppers after you've roasted and peeled them
Cholula or Tabasco hot sauce (to serve)

Preheat oven to 230C  / 450F.

Chop each bell pepper lengthwise into three large sections, and peel and chop the onion into quarters. Slice jalapeño in half lengthwise and de-seed. Place the chopped peppers, onions, jalapeño, and unpeeled garlic cloves on a large baking tray and place in oven. Roast for 20-30 minutes (removing jalapeño and garlic cloves after 10 minutes so they don't burn), until outer layers of onions begin to brown and the skins of the bell peppers are bubbling and beginning to blacken.  As soon as you remove the the onions and peppers from the oven, place peppers into a pyrex or glass bowl and cover with a lid or plastic wrap for at least 5 minutes.

Slice the tortilla into thin strips. Place strips on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 230C/ 450F for 3-4 minutes, until crispy but not browned. Remove baked tortilla strips and set aside for garnish.

While the onions and peppers are roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the corn cob into the pot. Cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until corn is tender. When the corn is done, drain and discard the water, remove corn cob, and let it cool for a couple of minutes. Reserve pot for cooking the soup. When the corn cob is cool enough to handle, carefully scrape the corn kernels off of the cob with a knife. Set corn kernels aside, and discard cob.

Remove the roasted bell peppers (now cool enough to handle) from the glass bowl, and carefully peel off and discard the skins. Coursely chop the peeled peppers, setting aside about 1/4 cup of chopped peppers for garnish.

Place the remaining chopped peppers into a blender, along with half of the cooked corn kernels (keep the other half of the corn kernels for garnish). Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the skins and add the garlic to the blender. Coursely chop the roasted onions and jalapeño and add them to the blender. Pour two cups of broth into the blender. Add to the blender 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, dash of cayenne pepper, and half of the chopped parsley (1/4 cup). Blend pepper mixture until you have a smooth puree.

Pour pureed pepper mixture into a large pot (same one you used to cook the corn), and bring to medium heat on the stove. Add to the pureed pepper mixture the shrimp, chopped chorizo, half of the chopped parsley, and the juice from half of the lime. (Set aside the remaining half of the parsley for garnish, and slice the remaining half of the lime into 3 wedges for garnish). Heat the bisque until hot throughout, about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you are using raw shrimp, make sure to cook the bisque until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Taste the bisque, and, if desired, add up to an additional 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cumin and smoked paprika, and a small pinch of freshly ground sea salt.

While the bisque is heating, prepare the garnishes. Place each garnish on a large serving tray or into separate small serving bowls: the roasted and chopped bell peppers, chopped parsley, corn kernels, lime wedges, chopped avocado, sour cream (or greek yogurt), and crispy tortilla strips. Place garnishes on serving table with small serving spoons or forks, along with Cholula or Tabasco hot sauce.

Ladle hot bisque into bowls and serve immediately, allowing guests to top their own bisque with the garnishes.

Bisque will keep for two days in the refrigerator.

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