Project candle-light: The husband’s birthday dinner. Shrimp bisque and Cajun blackened steak recipes I tried from The Joy of Cooking. (Recipe) 

I wanted to do a little something special for the husband. Have never tried cooking a romantic candlelight dinner for him so I thought perhaps it will be a good time to try. I just bought a second-hand copy of the cookbook The Joy of Cooking, and my, oh my! I wished I had gotten the book sooner! Based on my earlier success with a few recipes, I decided to try a soup recipe and a steak recipe from the book. Just something simple to prepare, because I will be baking a birthday cake that day. Now, that is quite an adventure too and I will blog about that in a separate post. 

I have just purchased a stick blender a week ago. Again, I couldn’t believe I waited that long to buy one. Great investment. I did a mini rehearsal with that the previous week to make sure I know how to use it. I was so afraid it’s gonna splatter soup all over the kitchen. Nope. So easy to use. In fact I’m a little disappointed I only get to zap around the pot for less than 2 minutes. Here it is below, my new gadget: a Cuisine art stick blender that only costs my $30 after months of chalking up points at a local kitchen goods store.

I have a weird husband. He claims he doesn’t like shrimps but will gladly eat a lobster and shrimp bisque is one of his favourite soups. Oh well. So I browsed through the recipe book and yay – Lobster bisque recipe! And what’s that line there? Shrimp Bisque…”substitute 1pound shell-on shrimp for the lobsters…” Ok! I’m making this!

So I made the soup one day before, to save time. But, I also discovered a day of sitting in the fridge makes the flavor come together and it tasted much better than when cooked fresh that day.

I pretty much followed the recipe but with two minor changes in preparation. Instead of cooking the prawns with shell on in the broth, I stir-fried them till they turn pink/red. It’s just something I’m always told to do when preparing Prawn Noodle Soup, a local dish of my home country, Singapore. The prawns and shells which you will need to cook in the broth  is more fragrant after stir-frying them. After stir-frying them, I let them cool before removing the shells and putting them back in the broth to cook for 45 min, as stated in the recipe.

Here’s the finished product. I was just expecting an okay soup but it turned out great! Kudos to the recipe!


Please scroll down to the end of the page for the recipe below. It is from the superb cook book The Joy of Cooking. Thank you, whoever you are, who wrote this awesome recipe!

And next, the main course.

I was so glad that I chose to do a simple pan-grilled steak. I used a Cajun rub recipe from the book.

I was exhausted by the time I finished baking the cake so I just deep fried  some frozen fries from the supermarket and made a simple salad.

Here are the recipes: 

Cajun Dry Rub (from The Joy of Cooking cookbook. I am listing the ingredients here as I could not find a online link to the recipe.)

Mix in a bowl:

1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 teaspoon ground sage.

Shrimp Bisque (minor adaptations from the Lobster bisque recipe from the Joy of Cooking)

Put in a big pot and bring to a boil:

5 cups water

2 cups dry white wine

2 cups fish stock (I found lobster stock in the supermarket and used that instead)

1 cup beef stock

1.5 pounds shell-on shrimps (recipe says 1 pound, but I went for slightly more.)
In a wok or sauté pan, stir fry shrimps till they turn a nice pink red. Remove the shells when  they are cool enough to handle. Set the meat aside. Return the shells to the broth and simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove the solids. You should have 6 cups of broth. I had more so I boil it over high heat to reduce it. I was impatient and boiled it down to about almost 7 (well, more soup is ok!). Recipe says if you have less, you should add water to make it 6.

Add butter to a sauce pan and melt some butter. Add:

1 cup finely chopped onions

1/3 cup finely chopped carrots

1/3 cup finely chopped celery
Then, stir in 6 cups of the broth along with:

1 can of diced tomatoes

1/3 cup long grain rice (I used jasmine white rice since that’s what I have)

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered for 40 min.

Cut the shrimps into small pieces. Melt 3-4 tablespoon of butter in a pan. Add the shrimp meat and stir in:

1/4 cup cognac

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

Cook until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.  Reserve 1/3 of the meat for garnish. Add the rest of the meat and any remaining juices to the soup mixture. Remove the bay leave and puree the soup to the consistency you prefer. Return the soup to a low fire and stir in 1/2 cup to 1 cup heavy cream. I chose a happy middle way: 3/4 cups. 🙂 

Remove the soup from heat and season with salt, pepper and garnish with the shrimp meat you set aside. 


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