A tribute to the Chef who taught me how to cook with passion.
I am so glad that Shrimp and Butternut Squash recipe is my first official post. This recipe means so much to me. It reminds me of a person very dear to me, my chef and close friend, Chef J.B.Holstein. He is no longer here with us to read this post and to learn impact he made in my life. I still want to honor him, for I have based most of my leadership and views on cooking on his. Of all the restaurant recipes I have learned in my career, Shrimp and Butternut Squash Bisque is my favorite. It tastes delicious, and it is a good basic recipe that lends itself to many other adaptations.
I learn to cook Shrimp and Butternut Squash while I was working at a popular Resort in Florida. The restaurant had gone into transition from Mexican to Tex-Mex cuisine. We also changed the restaurant chef. The new chef was Chef J.B. Holstein. Chef Holstein was a Southern Boy through and through. Son of a Navy officer, Chef J.B. spent most of his childhood moving from state to state. From Georgia to Louisiana. He even spent a few years in Puerto Rico, where he learned Spanish. Towards the end of his life, Chef J.B. was living in Texas. He began his culinary career working with Chef Paul Prudhomme, J.B. LOVED Southern Cooking. All of his dished had a Southern twist.
Every chef has something they focus on with their food. For some it is presentation, and for others it could be quality. J.B.'s culinary focus was FLAVOR. J.B. focused on flavor layering, something he learned while working with Chef Prudhomme. He liked to create his own spice mixed, he believed in the use of stocks, and reductions as flavor agents. His recipes were simple but precise. He crafted his recipes so that guests will experience complex flavors with every bite.
Chef J.B. Holstein was like my Culinary Father. I was fresh out of culinary school and full of "can-do" attitude. When Chef J.B. came along, I was ready to prove myself once more. Years later, he told me that of all the crew members, the only one he was worried about was me. Only because I was the only one who literally thought I owned that kitchen.
J.B. took me under his wing and taught me how to lead the team. He taught me how to write recipes and how to read them better. He also taught me how to really cook. What I mean by this is this. I learned basic cooking from my family, so I wouldn't starve. Culinary School taught me technique. J.B. taught me how to incorporate my passion for cooking, with technique to create a dining experience. That is what I want to share with you, how to add passion to your cooking.
Cooking with Passion
In order to cook with passion you need to get intimate with your products. This is done by always taking notice of your products smells, textures, and tastes. This actually could be used as a meditation. As the product moves from stage to stage, the product morphs. For example, as we cook an onion its pungency changes to sweetness. Its crunchiness turns non existent, and its aroma is sweet and inviting. Cooking with passion is to know your ingredients throughout the process. Knowing the end result, if you will.
Shrimp Butternut Squash
To begin the Bisque. preheat the oven to 350 degrees. We are going to roast the Butternut Squash. We do this to soften the texture of the squash. To increase its sweetness, and add a nutty factor to its flavor profile.
Note: sometimes I do prepare most of my ingredients before I begin the cooking process, which I completely suggest you do. If you are anything like me, you probably just came home from work or you are busy doing other life related activities which will take away from the preparations. Here is how you pull this off, lol.
Take a cookie sheet and spray it with cooking spray or olive oil. I prefer the baking cooking spray. It keeps most of the squash from sticking. Remember there are sugars in the squash and they will caramelize. As the oven heats, peel and dice the butternut squash into ½" dice cubes. Some markets have already diced squash, and that is perfectly fine. I prefer cleaning my own products because I think the integrity of the product is somewhat lost the longer it sits outside its natural state. Make sure that you have about 2 pounds of squash. Place the squash on cookie sheet and roast as soon as oven is ready.
This is one of those steps that should be done before we start for food safety measures, so that you can wash your hands and move on to the next step.
Cleaning shrimp, if that is your choice is time consuming and should not be done while you have product in the stove, since you might end up burning the product. If you find Jumbo shrimp that is already cleaned and deveined, buy them instead of shell on shrimp. You can also substitute Jumbo Shrimp with half a pound of small shrimp, or crawfish. I would cook the other half and use it as a topping for the bisque for those who want a more shrimp flavor. Here is a guide on shrimp sizes from The Spruce Eats. The list is very thorough and informative, you will also end with a few more shrimp recipes while you are there. If you are using Jumbo Shrimp, cut them into thirds and set a side.
While the squash roasts in the oven, cut the onion into ¼" dice. The quarter dice allows for the onions to cook faster, and release their juices to the pot easier. It also allows for the onions to dissolve that much easier when we begin to blend it with the immersion blender.
On a large soup/stock pot on medium heat, melt 2 tablespoon of butter. Add Onions and Bay Leaf. Let the onions sit for about a minute, then begin stirring onions until onions have a light brown color and soft texture. This is the caramelization of the onions. The natural sugars in the onions are turning the onion brown. This process enhances the flavor of the onions and turns them sweeter. If you see the onions are turning brown too quick, lower heat and remove pot from burner until pot reduces heat and continue to stir. Adding the Bay leaf at this point softens the leaves and allows them to release their flavor to the dish.
Releasing these flavors become the first layer for the bisque. Allowing the products to release as much flavor before adding another component, gives that product to make an impact in the finished product.
Putting it all together
Once the onions are light brown, add shrimp. Shrimp cooks rather quickly so make sure that squash is out of the oven and ready for the next step. Continue stirring the pot as you add the shrimp. Watch the shrimp as they begin to turn bright pink, but not fully cooked. At this point most of the flavor has been incorporated. Remove about a quarter of the shrimp, wrap dish with plastic wrap or lid and set aside. The shrimp with continue to cook with residual heat giving the shrimp a very soft texture.
Add Butternut Squash. Remember, you are continuously stirring through this process. The squash should be soft and tender from roasting. Allow it to mush as you stir with the onions and the shrimp. The squash should turn into a thick paste where no squash chunks are visible. At this point add all of the Seafood Stock and lower the heat to low. Let the bisque simmer for about 5 minutes and with the immersion blender, blend the bisque. I prefer a little grit to my bisque, but passing the bisque through a sieve is a good way to create a super smooth texture. Add spices and taste.
You would see that the bisque is still rather thick and it bubbles up, or spits out quite a bit. Add heavy cream and stir. Taste for flavor. You should be able to taste the nuttiness of the squash, the sweetness of the onion, the brine of shrimp, chased by the warmth of the cayenne. The Cayenne is there for just that factor, warmth. The bisque is not to be Spicy. Cayenne could be completely omitted if necessary.
When serving, place the reserve shrimp at the bottom of the bowl. Ladle bisque over shrimp; this action will warm the shrimp, or you could quickly saute them before adding them to the bowl, and add a light dusting of cayenne pepper for color.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Please leave a comment below. If you try the recipe, let me know how you like it and share a picture.
Shrimp and Butternut Squash Bisque
Shrimp and Butternut Squash Bisque
- Two pounds of butternut squash peeled, and ½" diced
- Two large onions peeled, and cut into small dice
- One pound of jumbo shrimp cleaned and deveined. If using jumbo shrimp, cut shrimps into thirds. You can use smaller shrimp and cut maybe in half or not at all depending on their size.
- 2 ounces of butter
- 2 tablespoon of olive oil
- One cup Brandy or White Wine optional
- One quart of vegetable or seafood broth
- One pint of heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Peel and dice the butternut squash.
- Toss the butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper
- Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray or brush olive oil on a sheet pan. Place the butternut squash in the pan and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. We want an even brown color on the squash. The squash should be soft. Remove from the oven.
- While squash is roasting, Clean shrimp if you have not yet and dice if needed.
- Cut Onions into small dice.
- Heat a stockpot or saucepan (4-quart to 6-quart).
- Add olive oil and butter. Allow to melt but not burn.
- Add onions. Cook onions until translucent.
- Reserve about a ½ cup of shrimp to be sauteed later and used as a garnish.
- Add shrimp. Cook shrimp until it starts to turn pink.
- Add roasted butternut squash.
- Continue stirring the contents until squash begins to break down into a paste.
- Add brandy or wine if desired. If adding alcohol, allow for the alcohol to remove the pieces stuck to the bottom of the pot. And allow for the alcohol to be absorbed by the squash.
- If not using alcohol, add the stock or broth. Like with the alcohol, add a small amount to make sure the pieces of brown bits in the bottom of the pot are removed. Then, add the rest of the stock or broth.
- Allow soup to simmer for about five to ten minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and with an immersion blender, blend the contents of the pot. If you do not have an immersion blender, pour one cup at a time of the soup into a regular blender. DO NOT FILL THE BLENDER!! The contents are hot and will expand as they are blended. Be careful and DO NOT close the lid of the blender all the way. Cover lightly to start and allow for air to pass. Some blenders have a removable lid knob. Remove the knob. This knob is for pouring into the blender as it spins.
- Once blended, you could opt to pass the soup through a sieve if you want a super smooth bisque or leave it as is.
- Bring the pot back to the stove and bring back to a low simmer. Add cumin and cayenne, salt and pepper. Let simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Add heavy cream. Taste for flavor.
- Remove from the stove and serve.
- Quickly cook the reserved shrimp and add a few pieces of shrimp to the top of the soup once served.