It’s a far distance between a dish that’s adequate and one that’s amazing, and our job is to ensure that CHOW recipes are the latter. Sometimes that means messing with tradition and/or common sense, like with the shrimp bisque we’ve been testing. Traditionally, bisques are soups that get their creamy, smooth texture from puréeing seafood (lobster, crab, or in this case shrimp). They should also be adequately thick and delicious.

Our first test for the recipe looked good on paper, with lots of shrimp for flavor, rice as a thickener, and a final whir in the blender for guaranteed smoothness. When we made it, the result was gritty, chalky, and too thick, but the flavor was promising. Not wanting to mess with the ingredients (except to eighty-six the rice because it was a pain to deal with anyway), we decided to work on the technique. We’re loath to publish recipes that require special equipment unless the payoff is stupendous, and seeing as it wasn’t, we tried to work around the blender step. Then, taking a page from our experience with gumbo where the dish ended up packed with shrimp flavor, we decided to make a stock. Along with a roux as the thickening agent, we came out with a bisque that had the tasters coming back for seconds, and proof that small tweaks can yield great strides.

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