Sunday, December 2, 2012

Curried Shrimp and Butternut Squash Bisque for Cook the Books: Heartburn by Nora Ephron and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

There are some books that I latch on to and savor, I am disappointed when they end and know that I will miss them so much that I will return to them again and again. Then there are books that while I like them fine, appreciate the craft of the writing and enjoy reading them, I don't have an emotional investment of any kind in them. That for me is Heartburn by the late, great Nora Ephron. A good book, well-written, humorous, but it just didn't grab me. 

I have more experience with Ephron's film work than her books. Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally are two of my all-time favorite chick flicks and I thought she did an amazing job with her last film Julie & Julia. All three touched my heart. With Heartburn, I didn't relate to the characters in a deep way. The story is a fictionalized account of Ephron's own marriage (to Watergate-breaking journalist Carl Bernstein), about cookbook writer Rachel, who while pregnant with her second child, finds out her journalist husband is having an affair and is fact in love with another woman who was a mutual "friend."  Ephron's wit and dark humor are out full-force. There is plenty of food which serves as both consolation to Rachel and to recount the story and the history of her relationship and marriage to Mark. The food engaged me more than the characters did and the descriptions and recipes were the most enjoyable part of the book. In the end, I am glad I was prompted to read Heartburn as our October/November Cook the Books selection. A favorite for me ... no, but still a worthwhile foodie read.

The recipes and how-to's woven in for things like four-minute eggs, key lime pie, pasta, and plenty of potatoes, make it ripe for foodie inspiration. I went back and forth with what to make and finally decided on a shrimp curry--something she makes her first night moving back in with Mark. I had in mind a sort of class-retro-Junior League-style-Americanized sort of curry as it seemed it would fit the mood of the book. A busy week not cooking dinners put off my curry plans and turned it into a Sunday soup--bisque to be exact. 

I was looking for a slightly healthier bisque--not so dairy and fat laden and was intrigued by the butternut squash base of this recipe originally from Southern-living magazine. I changed it up a bit (shown below in red), replacing the butter with a smaller amount of Earth Balance, swapping the whipping cream with coconut milk-based creamer, and exchanging the canned chicken stock for homemade shrimp stock from the freezer. The result--still decadent and indulgent, is lower in saturated fat, and the marriage of shrimp and butternut with the curry, is much stronger and better than that of Mark and Rachel. ;-)
Curried Shrimp and Butternut Squash Bisque
Southern Living Magazine from
(Yields about 6 Servings)

1 lb unpeeled, medium-size fresh shrimp (I used large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used 1.5 Tbsp Earth Balance)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 (3 lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 (14.5-oz) cans chicken broth, divided (I used 1 quart of shrimp stock)
2 teaspoons curry powder (I used 2 1/2 tsp curry powder)

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup whipping cream (I used 1 cup coconut milk creamer--unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
garnishes: whipping cream, paprika (I used cooked shrimp and smoked paprika)

Peel shrimp, and de-vein, if desired. Set aside.

Melt butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; add onion, and sauté 7 to 8 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat to medium; add squash, and cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until tender.

Add 1 can broth, shrimp, curry, and thyme, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Let cool slightly. (I added everything but the shrimp and cooked together for about 10 minutes, then added shrimp and cooked until pink)

Process mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.

Return mixture to saucepan; add remaining broth, and bring to a boil. Stir in 1 cup whipping cream, salt, and pepper; reduce heat to low, and simmer 5 minutes. Garnish, if desired.

Notes/Results: I really liked this soup. I thought that the squash and curry would overpower the shrimp but the flavor comes through and it is a nice blend of sweet and lightly spicy. (I owe much of the shrimp flavor to the stock from leftover shrimp peels I had sitting in the freezer--I recommend it over chicken stock.) I did cook the onions and squash in the broth, along with the curry and thyme for about 10 minutes before adding the raw shrimp--to make sure they were soft enough and to add more flavor. This is an elegant starter soup--not too heavy on the curry but full of flavor. I would make it again.

Our host for this CTB round is Simona of briciole and the deadline is Monday, December 3rd. If you love foodie books, consider joining us for our December/January pick: The Hunger Games hosted by Heather of girlichef (we are tying it into Food 'n Flix for some foodie book and movie fun)

Now let's take a look into the Souper Sundays kitchen and see who is here.

Judee of Gluten Free A-Z Blog has an Indian Spiced Tomato Soup to share and says, "Do you love a flavorful, yet easy to make soup? It is slightly spicy, has protein rich lentils , and is made with real food, yet is easy to make.  The recipe boasts fresh tomatoes (although you can you canned in the winter if you must) , immune protecting onions and garlic, metabolism raising chile peppers, and fresh green cilantro. The addition of curry or turmeric and cumin add the extra kick of immune building spices. This soup is gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and egg free. It's protein comes from lentils. Great for adults and kids who are adventurous eaters!"

Join me in welcoming Nicola of Lemon and Cheese, making her first appearance at Souper Sundays all the way from London and with this creamy Carrot Soup with Dill and Mustard. She says, "I made this soup last weekend for the friends who helped me destroy the wardrobe. I served it with ham sandwiches and it seemed to go down well. I loved it anyway, it was nice to have a change from the more common Carrot and Coriander Soup." Welcome Nicola!

Finally we have a soupish curry from Janet of The Taste Space, this Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini. Janet says, "I am a sucker for creamy red lentils and while it didn’t have the zip that dal bhat delivers, it was a great curry. I find that most curries are a bit too watery for my liking, especially if eaten fresh. So, I have suggested starting with less water. You can always add more to thin it out, but it is kind of a pain to boil that extra water away. It will thicken a bit as leftovers as well. I also ended up using less oil, salt and chili and adding more lime.  Definitely season to taste, as I probably could have added more heat with the chile flakes.

Thanks to Janet, Judee and Nicola for joining in this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share--just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar for all of the details.

Have a happy, healthy week!


  1. Just wanted to stop by and say that I love your shrimp heart garnish!

  2. I've had pumpkin soup with prawns before - such a good flavour - but I think your curry spices and coconut milk really elevate it.

  3. The heart-shaped shrimp are so cute! At least you got a winning recipe even if the book wasn't the best. Still a win in my eyes. :)

  4. I love the shrimp heart you made. :) All in all the bisque sounds awesome!

  5. Can't help commenting about the heart shape too in your soup. Very cute.
    Great background info on Ephron. I didn't realize that she did two of my favorite films too. I might get the book; you've got me intrigued.

  6. aaaawww the heart-shaped shrimp soup looks so cute!

  7. Very nice bisque! I love everything with butternut squash and like the way you have lightened up the original recipe. I enjoyed reading your take on the book. Thanks for your contribution to this edition of Cook the Books!

  8. This is the prettiest soup I've seen in awhile! I'm loving your shrimp heart. Looks very creamy and delicious.

  9. Ana @ Sweet Almond TreeDecember 9, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    Love the idea of picking butternut squash as a base, and sub with coconut milk instead of heavy cream (I do that also). I was intrigued with "Heartburn," but I guess that's because I've dealt with a similar situation. Not with the same sense of humor though. Loved the index at the end of the book which listed the recipes!


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