Luxurious flavors abound in this creamy Irish Scallop Bisque! It’s perfect as an elegant starter course, or a light main course with bread and a salad…
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
~~ Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wild, A.K.A. Oscar Wilde – 19th century author.
With St. Patrick’s Day only a week away, Irish Scallop Bisque jumped off the page when recently I perused Oana Iancu’s website – Adore Foods. I have the privilege of participating in a “Blog Hop” with over 60 talented food bloggers, and I get to feature a recipe of Oana’s on my blog.
While her Irish Scallop Bisque can only be described as luxurious, it really is very simple to prepare. Of course the “star” of this recipe is a perfectly seared scallop, but the bisque itself is full of creamy, savory flavor.
What is a Bisque?
In the strictest sense of the word, a bisque is a French-style soup made with crustaceans – the shells are used for the stock, and the meat is incorporated into the finished soup.
The main characteristic of a bisque – the one that distinguishes it from a chowder – is its creamy, velvety texture. Over the centuries, the method used to achieve that creamy texture has gone from using a fine powder made from the shells, to thickening with cooked rice, cream, cornstarch, or roux.
A rich stock is important, and I often make my own by saving shrimp shells and fish bits, produce scraps, etc. However, you can achieve a lovely result with a good commercially prepared stock like Kitchen Basics Seafood Stock (I use it!). See The Meaning of Bisque to learn more…
So, what makes Irish Scallop Bisque “Irish?” The potato of course! The potato and cream (or creamer) add body to this gluten free soup. Additionally, I have used both half n’ half and coconut non-dairy creamer in this recipe, and while I prefer the half n’ half, the coconut creamer tastes great (not like coconut!) and it works for dairy sensitive foodies.
Making a Perfectly Seared Scallop – Wet Versus Dry
A “perfectly seared scallop” may be a challenge for many home cooks. The key to getting a good sear lies in starting with a dry scallop. Unfortunately, most U.S. markets sell “wet” scallops that have been treated with phosphates to preserve shelf life. The phosphates cause the scallops to absorb water, and may give them a bit of an off-taste.
If you’ve purchased “wet” scallops, it helps to soak in a mixture of 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons table salt for 30 minutes. If you’ve purchased “dry” scallops, skip the brine.
Rinse and drain the scallops, and place atop several layers of paper towels or a clean, dry towel. Top with several more layers of paper towels. Gently press to remove moisture.
Salt and pepper the scallops on both sides, and they’re ready for your smoking hot pan 🙂 I find my cast iron skillet gives great results; stainless steel is another good option. Use a very thin layer of oil!
Making the Bisque
If you’ve not made a bisque before, you are in for a treat with this one! A bisque is traditionally a cream and shellfish based soup of French origin. The mirepoix base in this soup really bumps up the flavor, and the use of prepared shellfish stock makes it quick and easy. Of course if you have shellfish stock in your freezer, by all means, use it instead. I strongly recommend using an immersion blender to purée the soup. Pouring hot soup into a blender is messy and can be dangerous.
When taking prep photos, I’m usually shooting with my iPhone, and I have to move quickly. The lighting is not great, and the steam obscures contents of my Dutch oven. However, I think you get the idea.
Work Flow for Irish Scallop Bisque
If gluten is an issue, this delicious seafood bisque is gluten free. A potato provides a tasty thickener. And yes, it has half ‘n half, but you’ve got to live a little once in a while… Right?
My husband and I enjoyed this Irish Scallop Bisque with a whole grain baguette and a bottle of French Pouilly Fuisse on our Friday night date night, and it was fabulous. If you are serving it as a starter course, I would feel comfortable using 1 scallop per bowl. If you plan to serve it as a main course, I would suggest 3 large scallops per serving. Bon appétit!
- 8 large sea scallops
- vegetable or refined coconut oil (high smoke point)
- 1 qt pack seafood stock, approximately 1L (see notes)
- 3 stalks celery
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 large potato, diced, preferably Russet
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine, (see notes)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves, or 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup half and half
- chopped chives
- salt and pepper
- In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter and sauté over medium heat the onion, carrots, celery and potato. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add dry white wine and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste and cook for another couple of minutes. Slowly add seafood stock, bay leaves and thyme. Cover and gently simmer for 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, remove celery stalks, bay leaves and thyme and puree the mixture with a blender until smooth. Return the bisque to low heat, add half and half, stirring. Adjust salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a pan, heat olive oil until very hot but not smoking. Sear scallops about 2 minute on each side. Remove and set aside.
- Serve the bisque in bowls, adding scallops on top and sprinkle with some fresh chopped chives.
If serving this bisque as a starter course, 1 large scallop per person is plenty.
I frequently have seafood stock in my freezer, and I would use it if so. However, commercially prepared seafood stock is now widely available, and quite delicious.
Don't use a white wine you wouldn't drink, but don't use something expensive. I substituted 1/2 cup sherry (and I actually prefer it) because all I had in the wine rack was an expensive French Pouilly Fuisse.
I don't always handle dairy well, and I have on occasion substituted So Delicious Coconut Creamer (no it doesn't taste like coconut).
This recipe was adapted from Saveur Magazine, Issue #5.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 369 Total Fat: 19g Carbohydrates: 25g Protein: 19g