Luxurious flavors abound in this creamy Irish Scallop Bisque! With a creamy seafood broth and a seared scallop or two, it’s perfect as an elegant starter course, or a light main course with bread and a salad… If gluten sensitivity is an issue, this lovely bisque is gluten free. If dairy is a problem, make the bisque with coconut creamer rather than half n half. You’ll want to give this one a try!
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.
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks – Irish Scallop Bisque Inspiration
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.
♨️ How to Make a Perfectly Seared Scallop
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!
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- sea scallops – If this is a starter course, I serve one large sea scallop per serving. If it’s a main course, I serve 3 to 4 large sea scallops per person. A good crusty bread alongside is perfect for a light dinner!
- oil – I use canola or refined coconut oil. Properly searing scallops requires a very hot pan, and oil with a high smoke point.
- seafood broth/stock – The quality of your broth or stock is important in this bisque recipe, whether you choose homemade seafood stock or purchase seafood stock.
- celery – Do as I say, not as I do! Don’t chop the celery! I’ve made this bisque recipe so many times. On photo day, I had it chopped and in the pot before I realized it is supposed to be large pieces so they’re easy to fish out.
- potato – I like a large russet in this recipe. If your potatoes are small, add 2.
- tomato paste
- dry white wine – Choose a dry white wine like a sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. Avoid oaky chardonnays. Sometimes I substitute 1/2 cup of dry sherry for the cup of white wine.
- bay leaves – I love using fresh bay. Whether fresh or dried, remember to fish them out before blending the bisque!
- thyme leaves – My preference is to use a few fresh thyme sprigs, and just fish them out before blending the bisque. Dried thyme leaves are fine.
- half and half – As I mentioned elsewhere in the post, if you are dairy sensitive, coconut creamer is a great substitution. It does not bring any coconut flavor to the bisque, and has a similar creamy consistency.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
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.
- Sauté the vegetables – 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 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the liquids – Add dry white wine or sherry and continue to cook for another 5 minutes (alcohol will evaporate). Stir in the seafood stock, tomato paste, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover.
- Prepare bisque for blending – Simmer gently until vegetables are tender. Remove celery, thyme stems (if appropriate), and bay leaves.
- Blend the bisque – Using an immersion blender if possible, blend the bisque until smooth. If you don’t have one, use a blender, but be careful! THE SOUP IS HOT!
- Finish the bisque – Once the soup base is smooth, add the half n’ half or creamer, and gently reheat. Stir frequently. DO NOT BOIL! Taste for seasoning.
- Sear the scallops – (this only takes 5 minutes). Sear the scallops on a hot pan with a bit of vegetable or refined coconut oil.
- Serve the bisque – Ladle the soup into bowls, top with desired number of scallops, and garnish with herbs.
If you have shellfish stock in your freezer, by all means, use it instead. I save shrimp shells for making stock. See How to Make Shellfish Stock.
I strongly recommend using an immersion blender to purée the soup. Pouring hot soup into a blender is messy and can be dangerous.
If gluten is an issue, this delicious Irish scallop bisque is gluten free. A potato provides a tasty thickener.
I don’t handle dairy all that well, and I often use coconut non-dairy creamer in place of the half n’ half. It adds the same body without the dairy and fewer calories.
If you cook a lot of shrimp (and other seafood), save their shells in a zip bag in the freezer, and make stock with them when you have enough.
You can then remove the pieces rather than straining the soup. On photo day a couple of years ago, it had been awhile since I’d made the bisque, and I had it chopped and in the soup before I realized it! 😭 In other words: Do as I say, not as I do. I re-shot the photos in 2021.
I ALWAYS use my cast iron skillet with just a thin coating of refined coconut oil.
The defining ingredient is the use of cream. I have a tomato bisque that does not include shellfish at all. Of course a French chef might take offense at my calling it a “bisque.”
🍷 Pairing Suggestions
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. Sauvignon blanc would be good as well!
If you are serving the bisque 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!
Irish Scallop Bisque
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- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 stalks celery - cut in large chunks (not chopped)
- 2 medium carrots - diced
- 1 large potato - diced, preferably Russet
- 1 medium yellow onion - chopped
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine - (see notes)
- 1 qt pack seafood stock - approximately 1L (see notes)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves - or 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup half and half
- 8 large sea scallops
- vegetable or refined coconut oil - high smoke point
- salt and pepper
- chopped chives
- Chop the onion, carrot, and potato fairly small (1/2" dice) to get them tender fairly quickly. Leave the celery in large pieces.
- 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 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add dry white wine or sherry and continue to cook for another 5 minutes (alcohol will evaporate).
- Stir in tomato paste, then add seafood stock, bay leaves and thyme. Cover and gently simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.
- Remove bay leaves, and celery pieces (if they're large). I prefer an immersion blender to pouring hot liquid into a blender. Blend until very smooth. If you added chopped celery as I accidentally did on photo day, you may want to pour through a strainer. Be careful!
- Once the soup base is smooth, add the half n' half or creamer, and gently reheat. Stir frequently. DO NOT BOIL!
- Sear the scallops on a hot pan with a bit of vegetable or refined coconut oil.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, top with desired number of scallops, and garnish with herbs.
NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.