Pickled Black Eyed Peas – A Paean to Helen Corbitt

Throughout the south, New Years Day is the one for building a lucky meal based on black eyed peas, (BEPs). Whether it’s with a ham hock and greens, or hoppin’ john, a whole lot of those perky little field peas get eaten on January first.

Field peas are grown over millions of acres worldwide. Closely related to green peas, they are an annual crop that originated in India, then migrated to Africa, and to North America some 400 years ago.

While we all pretty much have heard of the black eyes, there’s a bunch more cultivated and enjoyed here in the states – look up the Mississippi Silver, Texas Cream, and Dixie Lee varieties and you’ll get the picture. Check out Rancho Gordo, or Camellia for great dried black eyed peas, and Camellia offers several other field pea varieties.

Popular as they are, black eyed peas do present a bit of a problem for many folks – they just don’t like the taste. Field peas in general, and BEPs in particular are not bland – they’re quite bold in flavor, with an earthy, almost funky top note that many find off putting.

Perhaps the most famous hater of BEPs was Helen Corbitt, an Irish Yankee force of nature who, against her better judgement, took a job teaching catering and restaurant management at UT Austin in 1940. Her comments on that speak to her wonderful personality – she said, ‘Who the hell wants to go to Texas? Only I didn’t say ‘hell’ in those days. I learned to swear in Texas.’

When Corbitt hit the Lone Star state, its cuisine was generally abysmal. Helen Corbitt almost single handedly raised the bar of cooking in Texas – But black eyed peas remained her kryptonite, until she came up with the perfect solution, having moved on from UT to take over restaurant management at Neiman Marcus – Texas Caviar.

Texas Caviar was, under Corbitt’s skilled hand, basically quick pickled black eyed peas – BEPs with onion, garlic, oil and vinegar, a pinch of salt and twist of pepper – and my oh my, were they popular. Neiman Marcus sold a ton of it. So if you or someone you love can’t quite hack the taste of BEPs, Helen’s brilliant twist on those field peas is the answer.

Look up ‘authentic Texas Caviar recipes,’ and you’ll find a raft of them – almost all of which have everything but the kitchen sink in the mix, and almost none of which mention Corbitt or reflect her original recipe. Fact is, the specter that Helen faced when she arrived in Austin has risen again with these recipes – canned goods, evident in spades. Canned corn, tomatoes, chiles, green peas and black beans, just to name a few.

You’ll also find bell peppers, sugar, bottled salad dressing, avocados, and… yeah – you get the picture. Now, to be fair, a lot of that may be added to hide the funk of BEPs, and if so, Helen would likely approve.

Here’s my swing at a recipe based on Helen Corbitt’s original inspiration, with just a twist or two reflecting things I really like. When Helen came up with this gem, it was 1957 – she didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of choices for onion varieties, oils, or vinegars – even jalapeños would have been a bit exotic back then. Now we have choices galore, and those should be celebrated – Helen would want us to do just that.

Try it out, and then tweak it to exactly how you like it and make it yours – you can certainly do a vinegar brine without oil if you’d like to. Whatever you make, don’t even think about using canned peas – cardboard, even nicely pickled, remains cardboard at heart.

Thank You Helen Corbitt Pickled Black Eyed Peas

4 Cups cooked Black Eyed Peas

1/4 small Onion

1 Jalapeño Chile

3 fat Cloves fresh Garlic

1/2 Cup Avocado Oil

1/2 Cup Pineapple Vinegar

6-8 twists fresh Black Pepper

3 finger pinch Kosher Salt

Peel, end trim and dice onion.

End trim and dice jalapeño – Field strip the chile if you want less heat, AKA remove the white inner membrane – that’s where the heat lives in chiles, not in the seeds.

End trim, smash, peel and mince garlic.

Pour cooked beans into a clean quart mason jar.

In a small mixing bowl, combine oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper and whisk with a fork to fully emulsify.

Pour dressing over the beans, leaving about 1/2” head space.

There will likely be a bit too much of everything to get it all in the jar – Darn – guess you’ll just have to scarf that down…

Seal jar and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours to allow the flavors to marry and the tartness to develop – and overnight is even better.

Will last about 5 days refrigerated – as if it’ll be there that long…

Urban’s Not Too Damn Bad For Ya Breakfast Cookies & Bars

Truth be told, when I’m working, breakfast usually consists of a few handfuls of nuts and dried fruit, because I’m on the go, and really don’t have time to stop and eat. I love that stuff, but every once in a while, I want something I can eat on the go that’s a bit more soul satisfying. While breakfast bars are tasty, most of the commercial stuff is crap. Mulling that over, I initially settled on a cookie, but then thought I might as well do up a bar version too – variety, spice of life – all that jazz.

What I came up with in either iteration has lots of oats, a relatively small amount of sweet stuff, unsaturated avocado oil, and good old fruit and nuts – tasty, and as advertised – not too bad for ya. Give them a try as I show below, and then you can modify them to make the mirrors. Changes in the fruits and nuts alone will give you quite a while variety of taste profiles. Enjoy!

Urban’s Not Too Damn Bad For Ya Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

3 Cups Old Fashioned Oats

1 1/3 Cups Pastry Flour

3/4 Cup Avocado Oil

1/2 Cup Honey

2 Large Eggs

1/2 Cup chopped Pecans

1/2 Cup dried Cranberries

1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Chunks 

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Ground Allspice

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 teaspoon Salt

Place a rack in the middle slot and preheat oven to 350° F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, honey, and eggs and cream the mixture until a bit fluffy.

In a small bowl, sift to blend flour, salt, and baking soda.

Add flour blend, oats, pecans, cranberries, and chocolate chunks to the wet mix and blend thoroughly.

On a baking sheet with a silicone pad, drop rounded soup spoon size chunks of cookie dough, spaced about 2” apart.

Bake for 5-6 minutes, then spin baking sheet 180° and bake another 5-6 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned on the edges.

Remove from oven, give them a couple minutes to cool, then carefully transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

Allow the baking sheet to cool for roughly 10 minutes before working your next batch. Makes about 24-30 cookies.

Store in an airtight container.

and then there’s the bars

Urban’s Not Too Damn Bad For Ya Breakfast Bars

2 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1/2 Cup Pastry Flour

1 Cup Whole Milk

2 Large Eggs

1/2 Cup chopped Pecans

1/2 Cup dried Cranberries

1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

1/4 Cup Avocado Oil

1 ½ teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 teaspoon Allspice

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

½ teaspoon fine Kosher Salt

Pull eggs and milk and allow to come to room temp.

Lightly oil a 9” square baking pan. Add a tablespoon of flour and dust the oil evenly, then tap out the excess flour.

In a large mixing bowl, combine and mix well the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, and salt.

In a separate mixing bowl, add milk, eggs, oil, and vanilla – whisk to thoroughly incorporate.

Position a rack in the center slot and preheat oven to 350° F.

Add wet mix to dry and fully blend the two with a kitchen spoon – allow the batter to rest while the oven finishes preheating.

Spread the batter evenly into the pan, then bake until edges of the bars are golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan until handleable, about 15 minutes.

Cut into 12-16 bars, and store in airtight glass.

What does bay leaf do for our cooking, anyway?

When you make soup, or stew, or any number of sauces at home, you add a bay leaf or two, right? Ever wonder why you do that – I mean, really give it some thought? I’ll be honest – I hadn’t, so I guess it’s time to ask – What does bay leaf do for our cooking, anyway?

Full disclosure, a social media acquaintance sent me a link to a new-agey treatise on bay leaf. This thing claimed that, ‘recent scientific studies have proven’ that bay leaf converted triglycerides to monounsaturated fats, eliminates heartburn, acidity, and constipation, regulates bowel movements and blood sugar, makes the human body produce insulin, eliminates bad cholesterol, protects the heart from seizures and strokes, relieves insomnia, anxiety, kidney stones and cures infections – No freakin’ wonder we put them in soup!

Most if not all of those claims are, at best, gross exaggeration and distortion of facts. The real dead giveaway was this line – ‘Do you know that if you boil some bay leaves in a glass of water and taste it, it will have no flavor?’

My answer to that is, ‘do you know that this statement is complete bullshit?’ Either the author has never actually done the experiment, or did so with bad bay leaves. Had they done it properly, they’d have discovered a much more potent and nuanced result.

Sweet bay laurel tree

Before we dive into that, let’s define what exactly the bay leaf in our pantry is – it’s Sweet Bay, AKA Bay Laurel, or Lauris nobilis. It’s native to the Mediterranean, and cultivated commercially all around that region, as well as France, Spain, Mexico, and Portugal. Now for the record, the other bay we see in a lot of pantries is California Bay, and that’s a whole different beast, Umbullularia californica – it’s far more potent than sweet bay, with longer, narrower leaves.

Dried Sweet Bay leaves Dried Sweet Bay leaves
Dried California Bay leaves Dried California Bay leaves

Problem is, a lot of purveyors just call their stuff ‘Bay Leaf,’ and that can make things tough on us home cooks. Different growing areas produce leaves with subtle differences you may or may not like. In any event, it’d be nice to know from whence yours came, wouldn’t it? Good outfits like World Spice and Penzey’s will tell you that. 

It’s good to keep both the sweet and California versions on hand, by the way. While California bay is intense and medicinal, the sweet, (often called Turkish), is lighter, more nuanced and savory. The latter is far and away my personal go to, for the record. California bay is nice, in moderation, in low and slow soups and stews where time and temperature can simmer out the lion’s share of the more volatile constituents that spring forth early on in the cooking process. In any event, you’d be well advised to find out what variety you have, and like best.

Sweet Bay is complex, with dozens of volatile compounds onboard each leaf. The heavy hitters are cineole, pinine, linalool, and methyl eugenol. Interestingly enough, most of those compounds are also found in basil. California Bay is a bit different, packing cineole, pinine, and sabinine – that last one is responsible for things like the spiciness of black pepper, nutmeg, and carrot oil. Cineole, linalool, and pinine are terpenes, a rather volatile chemical family that has much to do with a wide variety of powerful scents in the natural world. Their highly reactive nature makes them some of the first things we smell when bay leaves are used in cooking. Methyl eugenol is a phenolic found in over 450 plants, and plays a vital role in pollination – how about that in your spaghetti sauce? These compounds are fascinating, especially when we think about how they’ve made that journey from chemical warning sign, or pollination attractor, to our dining table.

On to that experiment then, since that’s the best way to ascertain that what you’ve got in your pantry is packin’. Set a small pan of water to boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Toss in a couple bay leaves of your choice, let them do their thing for 3 to 5 minutes, and then stick your nose down there.

The first things you get will be those fleeting terpenes. If you’ve got California bay, those notes will be the big medicinal ones, menthol and camphor. If you’ve got sweet bay, you’ll still get some hefty initial notes, like camphor from the cineole, but as simmering time progresses, you’ll catch a sort of floral skunkiness – that’s the linalool’s influence. Piney, sagey notes come from the pinine, while the methyl eugenol might remind you of general earthy, savory notes. If you let that simmer go for 45 to 60 minutes, as you would for a soup or stew, and then taste your bay leaf tea, you’ll get hints of all these things – If you don’t, then what you’ve got is old, or old, crappy bay leaf – and that’s not at all uncommon.

Bay leaf’s contribution to your cooking is subtle – it’s a background stalwart, not a lead singer. What makes a sauce, soup, or stew great is the layering of flavors, and for that, a solid aromatic base is critical. Bay lends a raft of minor notes that, while perhaps not missed in and of themselves, certainly will be if they’re absent from the mix.

So what to do in your kitchen? Start by finding your bay leaf, opening the jar and giving it a big sniff. Do you get a nice, complex but subtle whiff of the stuff discussed herein? Do you remember where and when you bought those leaves? Does the container say anything about provenance? If the answer to those questions is, ‘no,’ then trash what you’ve got and get some fresh stuff. World Spice is a great go to for bay leaf – They carry both Turkish and California, and they’re always top notch quality. 

Bay does just fine as a dried herb, by the way. If you keep them in a clean, airtight glass jar, out of direct sunlight and wide swings of temperature, they’ll be good to go for 6 months, easy. If you want more from your bay, store them in your freezer and they’ll last for years.

Fresh Sweet Bay leaves Fresh Sweet Bay leaves

You can use fresh bay leaves in cooking, but know that their potency is quite a bit higher than dried leaves, so adjust accordingly, and again, be sure you know what you’ve got – A freshly crushed leaf of fresh bay from our garden smells subtly savory and complex, just as described, whereas, at least to me, fresh California bay smells like a medicine cabinet – an overdose of the latter will ruin a meal really quickly.

Tej patta, or Indian bay leaf
Tej patta, or Indian bay leaf

Then there’s Tej Patta – Indian Bay leaves. Indigenous to the southern slopes of the Himalayas, Indian bay is mostly wild brown, and can be identified by the 3 distinct veins running down each leaf. Seminal to Terai cuisine from the area around the mountainous northeast of the country, and to Moghul dishes like biryani and korma, Indian bay has notes of  cinnamon, clove, and cassia. It’s a must have if you’re to do those regional cuisines justice.

Grow your own bay leaves

Finally, you can grow your own if you’re living in a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7 or thereabouts – We’re a 7+ here in the northwest corner of Washington State, and our little sweet bay plant is doing fine, even with a couple of hard frosts under its belt. Granted, it’s a small bush and not a tree – in its native turf, it can reach over fifteen meters in height. Here’s a very nice primer on doing so.

Cracklin Bread? You Damn Skippy!

Last night was roast chicken, so today was chicken stock, and tonight will be chicken chili – and that absolutely demands cracklin bread. For the uninitiated, that’s cornbread with cracklins therein. Cracklins are nothing more than fatty pig skin put to a far better use than football. Of course, the subject isn’t quite that simple – if it were, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun, or as tasty. If we’re going to make cracklin bread, we’ve gotta know our cracklins.

Cracklin bread
Cracklin bread

Here in the states, pork rinds have always been a thing, at least in the south. Worldwide, they’re everywhere. In Mexic0, South and Central America, and Spain, they’re chicharones. Up in Canada, they might be scrunchions or orielles de Christ. In China, they’re Zhīzhā, in Thailand, it’s khaep mu. In the Slavic countries, they’re škvarky, tepertő in Hungary, and jumări in Romania. They’re integral to the traditional Czech dish, bramborové knedlíky se škvarkama a kyselým zelím – potato dumplings with cracklings and sauerkraut. In merry old England, they’re scratchings.

Khaep Mu from Thailand

You needn’t be a Fergus Henderson fan to know that it’s still very much waste not want not when it comes to hoof to snout consumption of our piggy pals. The names and dishes detailed above aren’t oddities, they’re mainstream eats, all made possible by pork skin. If you think that’s icky, think again the next time you’re swooning over crisp turkey or chicken skin, or bacon for that matter.

Pork rinds come to us through lard production, as well as general slaughter and processing. In the south, the venerable cast iron wash pot was and is used to render down lard. Leftover scraps and skin went in there as well, and crunchy bits of that would rise to the surface, to be skimmed off, lightly salted, and served as a snack – and they’re friggin’ seriously good, by the way.

There are, of course, less than inspired versions of this age old treat out there, and if you’ve ever had them, I’m sorry – a lot of what gets called cracklins and sold in stores is closer in consistency and taste to packing material than pork.

Fortunately, there are plenty of places to get good stuff, and probably one or more near you – go to your local carniceria or Latin market and you should be good to go. If you’re blessed with a local butcher, ask if they do cracklins – if they make leaf lard, they well might.

There are variations on the theme – The basic version of a rind is just skin – no fat at all. Into hot fat they go, and you get the Cheeto-like puffy thing. A genuine cracklin has some fat and maybe little flecks of meat still attached – something with some flavor and very satisfying bacony crunch.

I get mine from 4505 Meats – they have a luscious fat layer, a nice crunch, a little sea salt, and nothing else. The donor pigs are humanely raised, with no added hormones or antibiotics. You can find them online.

Making cracklin bread is no more involved than adding them to your favorite cornbread recipe. If you favor a dense, super moist version of this wonderful stuff, just add a packed cup of good quality cracklins to my latest and greatest, and you’re good to go. If, in reading that piece, the purist hot water version appeals, here’s the drill for that – You can bake or fry, as you prefer.

Hot water cracklin bread
Hot water cracklin bread

Urban’s Hot Water Cracklin Bread

4 Cups coarse ground Cornmeal

2 Cups Cracklins

2 teaspoons Sea Salt

Bring 3 cups of fresh water to a full boil.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal and salt.

Carefully pour boiling water over the dry mixture, whisking steadily until you have a heavy batter consistency.

Let the batter sit, allowing the meal to fully absorb the water, and the mixture to cool enough to handle.

You want a consistency that will allow you to hand form cakes about 3” to 4” round and about 3/4” thick.

To Bake –

Preheat oven to 400° F, and set a rack in the middle slot.

Generously butter a heavy baking sheet, and place cakes evenly on the sheet, with an inch between each.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown, and a toothpick stuck in the middle of a cake comes away clean.

Serve hot with lots and lots of butter.

To Fry –

In a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, heat oil, using an instant read thermometer to monitor temperature – you want right about 375° F.

Once your fat is up to temp, add generous soup spoons of batter – You can get 3 or 4 in a 12” skillet without crowding.

If you like things thin and crispy, use the back of the spoon to tamp down each dollop a bit, otherwise, let it ride for a softer middle.

These will cook quite quickly – about 1 to 2 minutes per side – when you’ve got a nice golden brown, it’s time to flip.

Transfer cooked cornbread to a paper towel lined wire rack to cool a bit.

As soon as you can grab them without burning yourself, devour with abandon.

Mike’s Choco-Chile & Poor Man’s Mole

My friend Mike is a retired dentist, who spent most of his working life in New England. Born and raised in California, this is likely why he and his wife beat feet for Oaxaca every winter. He is a wonderful  observer, lover, and sharer of that vibrant corner of the world, and his super simple Choco-Chile blend is one of the favorite things he’s shared with me. For anything that you think would be great with a black molé on board, this is a fantastic option that can be made and deployed in no time – something you definitely cannot do with most dark molés.

The only thing I’ve changed from the recipe Mike sent me is specifying chocolate de mesa, Mexican table chocolate. This stuff is prepared in a manner much closer to the old indigenous ways than bar chocolate is – it’s often stone ground – you may find it labeled chocolate de metate or chocolate tradicional. The best stuff comes from small fincas (farms) around Oaxaca, Chiapas, and the Yucatán. Look for the darker varieties.

Since there are so few ingredients in this blend, the quality matters greatly – that doesn’t mean expensive, it means tasty and to your liking. Something as simple as changing the chile you use, or the chocolate, will yield a whole new profile – it’s pretty wondrous. Give it a try and you’ll be hooked as I am.

Choco-Chile base

Mike’s Choco-Chile

Makes about 1 cup (enough to sauce four entrées) 

2 Ounces dried Pasilla or Ancho Chilies 

1 clove Garlic

1 to 2 Ounces Mexican Table Chocolate, (or any least 70% cacao chocolate you like)

1 teaspoon Honey 

Zest and juice of 1⁄2 Lime 

1⁄2 teaspoon Salt 

Choco-Chile fixins

Stem and seed the chilies. 

Place chiles in a small, non-reactive bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let sit for at least 15 minutes. 

Peel, end trim and mince garlic.

Finely chop chocolate.

Zest and juice the 1/2 lime.

Drain the chilies, reserving the soaking liquid.

In a food processor, purée all ingredients, adding a teaspoon or so of chile soaking liquid as needed to achieve a paste that blends smoothly.

Adjust lime and/or salt as desired.

Mike notes, ‘The sauce will keep for at least a week (possibly forever; I’ve never tested its longevity) and its flavor will actually improve after a day or so.’

You can enjoy the sauce a bunch of ways – I have three favorites.

One is to sauté whatever protein or veggies you’re wanting, then deglaze the pan with good, homemade chicken, or veggie stock, scraping the fond from the pan bottom. Add choco-chile, whisk to thoroughly incorporate, then add back the protein or veggies and heat everything through before serving.

Second is to thin choco-chile with straight stock and use it as enchilada sauce.

But the best, hands down, is Mike’s fantastic Poor Man’s Molé. 

Mike’s Poor Man’s Molé

4 Cups shredded or cubed Meat (chicken, Turkey, or Pork), or veggies.

1 medium Yellow Onion

1 14 ounce can diced Tomato

1 Cup toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)

1 Cup Choco-Chile sauce 

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil

1/2 to 1 Cup Stock (Chicken, Veggie)

Salt to taste

In a large skillet over medium heat, add oil and heat until shimmering.

Add onion and cook, stirring steadily, until softened, about 4 minutes, then remove from heat.

In a blender or food processor, add tomatoes, pepitas, choco-chile, and onions. Process until fairly smooth as you like and a little texture is fine. Thin with stock as needed to make this happen.

Return skillet to heat over medium low and add the sauce.

Cook sauce until it begins to simmer, about 5 minutes, whisking constantly to keep the sauce from sticking.

Add meat or veggies and stir to thoroughly coat and incorporate. 

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more until everything is heated through. Sauce thickens as it cooks, so add stock as needed to end up at a consistency you like.

Taste and add sale as needed.

Serve hot with cilantro and fresh tortillas.

Real Deal Bisque – It’s all about shellfish and great stock

When you think ‘Bisque,’ what does that conjure in your minds eye? These days, it might be anything in a thick, rich creamy soup, and that’s sort of correct, but if we’re talking the genuine article, bisque is made with shellfish – lobster, crab, shrimp or crawfish. The key is starting with a great stock – If you don’t have that as the base of the dish, you ain’t got real bisque – It’s that simple.

Fresh, homemade stock is key to great bisque

That said, many things are called bisque these days, but really, that’s just done to sell stuff – Bisque sounds infinitely sexier than Cream of Whatever, doesn’t it? Fact is, the only thing I found on our site was Butternut Squash Bisque, so I’m guilty as charged. It’s high time we posted up the real deal.

This thick, rustic soup goes back at least 500 years in France. Back when, it was peasant food that included crushed seafood shells, but not the meat. Bisque languished for a while before returning to the spotlight as a somewhat more refined dish in the late seventeenth century, (shells were still used to make the stock, but not crushed and left in, as they had been).

In any event, bisque may seem fussy and difficult, but it’s really not. If you’ve poked around here at all, you know we always start a soup or stew with homemade stock, and so should you. From absolute scratch, this stuff can be made in a couple of hours, and faster yet if you do stock one day and bisque the next.  The other must-haves are a solid foundation made with aromatic bases, and thickening done with a buerre manié, (more on the latter technique in a bit.)

Buerre manié - kneaded butter- The key to thickening soups, stews, and sauces.

Buerre manié may be a new trick to some of y’all. If you’ve ever wondered how professionals make such lovely, thick, shiny soups, stews, and sauces, this is how it’s done. Buerre manié is a classic French technique for thickening – it couldn’t be easier, and there’s no better way to get the job done. Buerre manié means kneaded butter, and that’s exactly what you do. Equal portions of butter and flour are combined by hand to form a smooth, uniform paste. Once mixed, you roll up roughly teaspoon sized balls of the stuff and add one at a time to whatever you need thickened, thoroughly whisking that into the mix, et viola – la perfection!

Shrimp Bisque a la Urban

Medium Shrimp come 41-50 to the pound

For the Stock

2 Quarts Water

Shells from 1 1/2 pounds of medium sized shrimp.

1/2 Cup yellow Onion, chopped

1/2 Cup Celery (Leaves are preferred), chopped

1/2 Cup Carrot, chopped

1/2 fresh Lemon

3 cloves fresh Garlic, crushed, skinned, and minced

5-6 whole peppercorns

2 Bay Leaves, (I like Turkish)

Two 3” sprigs fresh Thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Fresh ground pepper

Pinch fine grind Salt

Shell, devein, and chop shrimp. Return shrimp to fridge and retain shells.

In a stock pot over medium high heat, add the olive oil and heat through. 

Add carrot and sauté for a couple of minutes. 

Add onion and celery, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 2-3 minutes. 

Add garlic and sauté until the raw garlic smell dissipates. 

Squeeze lemon juice into the pot, then toss the half lemon in as well. 

Add the shrimp shells, water, peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaves – Stir to incorporate.

Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to just maintain a simmer – Cook for one hour, uncovered.

Remove pot from heat and carefully pour stock through a single mesh strainer. Set stock aside, and discard the solids.

For the Bisque

4 Cups Shrimp Stock

1/4 Cup Heavy Cream

1/4 Cup Brandy

2 Tablespoons Onion, fine diced

1 Tablespoon Carrot, fine diced

1 Tablespoon Celery, fine diced

2 Tablespoons unsalted Butter 

2 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour

2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste

2 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 teaspoon Turkish Oregano 

1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Thyme 

1/2 teaspoon Tarragon

2 Turkish Bay Leaves

2-4 shakes Tabasco

A few sprigs fresh Parsley, chopped fine


Fresh ground White Pepper

Reserve and set aside 8-10 whole shrimp. The rest should be shelled, deveined, and chopped.

Pull butter from fridge and set aside.

If you have fresh herbs, you can combine and mince them ahead of cooking.

In a Dutch oven over medium high heat, add olive oil and heat through.

Add carrot and sauté for a couple of minutes. 

Add onion and celery, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 2-3 minutes. 

Add brandy and stir until raw booze smell dissipates.

Add tomato paste, and all herbs – Stir to incorporate and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook for 60 minutes.

Carefully process bisque with an immersion blender, until you have a smooth, even consistency.

Add a couple shakes of Tabasco, taste, and adjust salt and pepper as desired.

In a small mixing bowl or cup, combine flour and butter and knead by hand until you’ve got a nice, uniform paste.

Add beurre manié a teaspoon at a time, whisking it into the bisque – Once that’s all introduced, simmer for another 5 minutes.

Whisking constantly, slowly add cream in a thin stream.

Increase temperature to medium, (you want a rolling boil).

Add the shrimp and cook for another 15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with a couple whole shrimp and a pinch of parsley.

Serve hot, with crusty bread and a nice dry white wine or cider.