Caribbean Shrimp and Crab Soup
Soup is not just a food to me, it’s a mood. Soup usually means I’d like to be warmer than I currently am; soup also means I’m feeling homey and maybe I need to be taken care of a little bit, even the gentle matter of being able to scoop it up with just a spoon. It’s a simpler, more efficient way to eat rather than messing around juggling forks and knives. I used to think soup was complicated and required sorcery to concoct, probably because when I was young my dad used to make soup for the whole neighborhood in a giant cauldron (with no recipe!). But, that’s a story for another day. Let’s just say, I come from soup people and this week I’m feeling kinda soup.
My parents (both great cooks) used to make this creamy shrimp and crab soup with peas in it and I’ve been craving it, so I asked Mom for the recipe. She sent me an iphone photo of a wrinkled up page, seemingly a magazine ad for Dijon mustard, with a few of my dad’s short-handed calculations for mega-proportions on the side. Reading through the recipe, I know this is not all that is in the soup of my memory. This is a metaphor for my parents’ instructions for life. “Here’s a rough outline that we’ve borrowed, made attempts to super-size, at one point crumpled up and put in our pocket, yet managed to hold on to through the years and even turn into something delicious to share with others. Do what you can with it. Go with God.” As far as parenting methods go, it’s actually a real confidence booster.
By the time I got the recipe I was pining for the Caribbean (probably from looking at friends vacation photos) and I had a hunch that I could make something inspired by the flavors in a souffle I love to eat but not to make (souffle- the pressure!). The recipe is in one of my favorite oldie-but-goodie cookbooks, The New Basics Cookbook. It’s a Caribbean Crab Souffle with curry, thyme, and spicy red pepper tempered by the sweet flavors of coconut and crab; it’s dreamy like an island vacation. Here in Pennsylvania, we’ve got at least a month of soup weather before sunny, warm days but we’re starting to look towards the light so this seafood soup, evocative of warmer weather or a brief vacation in my own mind seemed perfect.
The thing about soup is–I’ve finally learned, it’s not complicated at all and actually so easy to throw a bunch of food and liquids together and call it soup (you have heard of “cheeseburger soup” and “baked potato soup”, right? I rest my case.) Anyway, this isn’t my first time making soup but it’s the first time I’ve written down and shared the recipe with the world so I wanted to make sure to get the spices right. I did a little mental eye-balling and used the spice combo and amounts from the souffle and it worked!!! I also used coconut milk in the soup recipe to represent the coconut in the souffle and I think it was another win. (Seconded by my daughter who asked for a to-go container, heading back to school.)
A few notes on ingredients: I know that homemade stock is the ideal. Here’s the thing: I hate don’t enjoy making homemade stock. If you like making homemade, that is awesome and I wish we were best friends. (But only if you shared. Not if you turned your nose up at me.) If not, here’s what I did for this recipe: I cheated. Now, I didn’t cheat like: use chicken stock. (You could though. My reasons are sort of irrational. My son is pescatarian and even though he lives on the West Coast and there’s no chance of him “stopping by”, I sometimes think “Nicholas would not approve of this” when I unnecessarily use chicken stock in soup.) I bought Seafood Stock in the grocery store and I simmered the shrimp shells in it while I was chopping the veg for the soup. That’s as homemade fish stock as I will ever get. I believe you could do the same thing with vegetable stock, or even water if you throw the ends of the vegetables you’re chopping into it as well.
Medium shrimp would be ideal for this but you could use jumbo shrimp and cut it up like I did today, because it’s what I had. (I just get whichever one is on sale) I keep the large two pound resealable bags of easy-peel uncooked shrimp in my freezer because they are so great for a quick-cooking healthy protein option for dinner.
I shredded the carrots for this recipe, which was delicious, but next time I might dice them because I kept thinking they were pieces of shrimp or crab shell.
“That’s all I have to say about that.” Here is the recipe:
- 1 Tbsp Olive oil
- 4 cups seafood stock (or veg stock)
- 1 pound medium uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, shells reserved
- 1 Bay leaf
- 4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup celery leaves, chopped
- ½ cup sweet yellow pepper, diced
- ½ cup carrot, diced or shredded
- ½ cup green onion (scallions), white and light green parts, diced
- 3 Tbsp flour
- ½ tsp curry powder
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp salt
- Ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ lb crabmeat
- ½ cup shelled peas
- Flat-leaf parsley, lemon and/or lime wedges, for serving
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large saucepan/pot over medium heat. Add reserved shrimp shells (cover and chill shrimp) and sauté 5 minutes. Add seafood stock and bay leaf; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 25 minutes. Strain shrimp stock into bowl.
- In same pot (now empty), melt butter and cook celery leaves and garlic for 2-3 min. Add sweet pepper, scallions and carrots and cook 5 minutes, until veggies are softened.
- Add curry, thyme, red pepper, salt and pepper to vegetables, stir for one minute. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring for 2 min, until flour is incorporated into veg. mixture.
- Add unsweetened coconut milk and stir until all is incorporated. Add stock and turn up heat to bring soup to a simmer, cook for 5-10 min until thickened. Stir in heavy cream.
- (Note: if the soup is not thick enough for your taste, stir a heaping tbsp flour into ¼ cup of coconut milk and add to simmering soup to thicken. Soup will thicken as it cools.)
- Reduce heat to medium and add the shrimp and crab. Cook until shrimp is pink. Add peas and stir until heated through, 5 min.
- Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley, lime or lemon juice, if desired.