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Soup Swap!



Shrimp Bisque


Some time in late December or early January I read something about soup swaps. It may have been an early article about National Soup Swap Day or it may have been something more generic but it got me thinking about hosting one.  By the time I’d recovered from the end-of-year holiday activity and started planning I realized that National Soup Swap Day was on January 22 but knew I couldn’t pull my event together in time to meet that date.  Although it would have been fun to align with other swaps it didn’t deter my plans. 

I polled some friends to find those interested in participating and a date that would work for them.  When checking the interest level I included the “rules of engagement” so that people would understand what they were getting themselves into.  Here’s an abbreviated version of the rules I presented:

  • I’ll be inviting 8 soup-makers (including me)
    • Couples count as 1 unless both want to contribute – let me know ASAP
  • Each soup-maker will bring 7 quarts of soup in individual containers that can be frozen
    • Soupmakers will take home 6 quarts since my contribution will be the food that night
  • There will not be restrictions on what people bring so there’s a chance someone could bring something you don’t eat
    • If you are part of a couple, maybe your S.O. will eat it ;-)
    • If you are a single, maybe you can share it with someone else
    • If this is a big concern for you, it might be best if you don’t participate ;-{
  • Everyone will email me their recipe a few days prior to the event and I’ll compile them
  • Recipes should be suitable for freezing

The restrictions rule was the most important.  Among my friends there are vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians, nothing-with-four-legs-atarians and those with allergies. Not to mention those watching fat or carb or some other intake.  Trying to negotiate all the ins and outs of people’s diets is often challenging.  Setting up all the restrictions would have limited the variety of the soups and, in some ways, penalized those who don’t have any restrictions.   Now before anyone gets upset with that last remark, let me say that I often cook things that would be suitable for most, if not all, of the restrictions and no one feels penalized.  In fact, the soups I made for the dinner that evening were suitable for all in attendance.  Well, except for one mistake  because I was confused about what the person included in their diet.  (Sorry PDG!) On the other hand, many of the group enjoy meat and I didn’t feel they should be forced to only eat food that meets the restrictions of others.  Another way around this would be to invite only those who have matching eating habits. 

This is where the packet of recipes is very important, though.  Since ingredients are not always obvious, having the recipe allows everyone to ensure the soup works for them.  And, of course, it also allows people to make any of  the soups they like again. 

But onto the event… and a recipe after the jump.


The Table before the Swap


The day of the party I prepared a small set of appetizers; two soups; salad; a couple of bread options; and a dessert for the group.  I’d also assembled all the recipes and printed out a packet for each soupmaker.  Party time was very exciting as guests arrived carrying their big batches of soup!  I had coolers on the front porch but it was cold enough outside (in the low 40s) that people just placed their bags and boxes of soup containers on the porch. 




While the guests were arriving we munched on the appetizers by a warm fire.  During this time people introduced themselves and got to know their fellow soupmakers – everyone knew someone in the group but no one knew everyone.  Soon after all had arrived we moved to the table and started dinner. I chose to serve the dinner in courses, mostly to keep the table from being too overloaded. 

Cheddar-Dill Scones and bread were on the table the whole time.  We started with salad and then two soups were served at the same time.  We took a little break after the soup and then served dessert.  We lingered at the table for a bit, chatting, munching on cookies and finishing our beverages.  Somewhere between appetizers and dessert the group jelled and conversation flowed more freely.   We cleared the table, hauled in all the soup,  stacked it on the table, made sure it was labeled and distributed it. 

I wish I had more photos of the event, especially of the stacks of soup.  Unfortunately hosting an event sometimes means I don’t take many photos.  Call me crazy but I tend to think that people like to have their food served hot, for instance!  But seeing all the soup stacked on the table was really inspiring.  Also, the photo of the soup at the top of the post was not taken that night but was my lunch on Monday.  For the party I served smaller portions of the two soups and then offered refills to anyone who wanted them.  Soup is rather deceiving in that a cup of soup doesn’t seem like much but can be pretty filling. 

For a first attempt this swap went really well.  Well enough that I might do some kind of summertime swap in a few months.  Maybe we’ll swap pickles or jams, for instance.  And I’m already planning to do another soup swap in the fall. 

I’ll leave you with the recipe for one of the soups I made that evening, Shrimp Bisque.  This recipe is pretty easy but there are two things you’ll want to be prepared for.  First, you need to buy shrimp in the shell, then shell them to make a stock.  Shelling and deveining shrimp can take a little time, especially if it’s something you haven’t done before.  I made a batch and a half and had to shell 2 1/2 pounds of shrimp!  I found that using my kitchen shears made the job a lot easier.  Starting at the neck of the shrimp I could cut through the shell and open the back to remove the vein in one cut. 

The second thing that could pose a challenge is that you need two large pots.  The first is used to make the stock and infuse the cream with the delicious shrimp flavor.  Then you need to strain the shells, vegetables, etc from the bisque and put it in a new clean pot.  You could also strain it into a large bowl and then clean the original pot but just make sure you have a plan.  It’s a large amount of soup so be prepared.  This soup is worth those small inconveniences! 

Shrimp Bisque

adapted from Tyler’s Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time by Tyler Florence

  • 1 1/2 pounds shrimp (21-25 to a pound), shelled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 3 Tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and rinsed well
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into big chunks
  • 2 carrots, cut into big chunks
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Orange
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Orange zest, for garnish
  • Finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Remove two large strips of zest from the orange with a vegetable peeler and then remove the rest of the zest with a zester or grater. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and melt the butter into it. Then add the shrimp shells, the leeks, celery, carrots, 3 sprigs thyme, the bay leaf, the two large strips orange zest, and tomato paste. Cook, stirring every now and then, until the shells are red and the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat and carefully pour in the brandy. Return to the heat and cook for about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour, give it a stir, and cook for another 2 minutes. Now add water to cover (2 – 3 cups) and deglaze, scraping up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to low and gently simmer until the soup is reduced and slightly thickened, 30 to 45 minutes. Strain into a clean pot and season with salt and pepper.

Return the bisque to a simmer, add the shrimp and cook 2 to 3 minutes just to cook the shrimp through. Give the bisque a final taste for seasoning, pour it into warmed soup bowls and serve garnished with the orange zest and chives.

Note:  Warming the bowls is important for this soup.  When you add the shrimp to the bisque pour a little boiling water in each bowl to warm it up and then dump it out when you are ready to serve the soup.  Also, the garnish adds a great element to the soup.  I forgot to add it the night of the party, to my dismay.  The orange zest really elevates the flavor. 

  1. 17-Feb-2011 12:45 pm

    That’s a beautiful table set for dinner! Wow! If you’re in Seattle, you are more then welcome to join us for next year’s National Soup Swap on January 21, 2012.

    And if you happen to live in the Central District, my partner and I will be hosting the 3rd Central District Soup Swap & Neighborhood mixer on Tuesday, March 8.

    Just drop a note and I’ll get you the invite or add you to the mailing list for next year!

    Lovely swap. Glad to hear it went well.

  2. 17-Feb-2011 1:55 pm

    Thanks, Knox!

    March 8 might work for me. I actually live in Broadview but I have a lot of friends that live in the CD area. ;-) I’ll drop you an email.


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