Butternut-Parsnip Soup with Shrimp

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There is a drawback of being a good cook — some friends tend to be intimidated by your prowess in the kitchen and don’t dare to invite you back over for dinner. And so I appreciate it a lot when someone does ask us to come to dinner. Like our friend Michiel, who made a very nice soup of butternut squash and parsnip for us, topped with sautéed shrimp. I liked the combination so much, that I decided to create my own version. Thanks Michiel, both for the inspiration and for the nice evening.

I flavored the soup with some oriental flavors (ginger, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chili flakes, lime, scallions) and made a stock out of the shrimp heads and shells to give it an additional layer of flavor. For even more flavor, I pressure cooked the squash and parsnip with baking soda as per a trick from Modernist Cuisine. You could achieve a similar result by roasting the squash and parsnip in the oven instead. In the end the soup all the ingredients work together to create one complex yet balanced flavor with great depth. It works very well with the shrimp.

Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

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For 4 servings as a substantial appetizer

For the soup

1 butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped, yielding about 750 grams (1.7 lbs)

2 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped, yielding about 375 grams (.85 lb)

4 Tbsp chopped shallots

1 Tbsp chopped ginger

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp salt

80 ml (1/3 cup) shrimp stock, from below

For the shrimp

450 grams (1 lb) large shrimp with heads and shells, about 20 pieces

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 Tbsp lime juice

1 garlic clove, minced

To finish

1 Tbsp olive oil

250 ml (1 cup) shrimp stock, from below

1 Tbsp sliced scallions, green part only

lime juice, to taste

fresh ginger juice, to taste

cayenne pepper, to taste

salt, to taste

For the shrimp stock

1 Tbsp olive oil

shrimp heads and shells, from above

1/2 Tbsp thinly sliced lemongrass

1/2 Tbsp minced shallots

1/4 tsp chili flakes

500 ml (2 cups) water

Preparation

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Peel the shrimp, reserving the shells and heads. Refrigerate the cleaned shrimp, covered.

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Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 Tbsp sliced lemongrass and 1/2 Tbsp minced shallots, and stir for a minute.

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Add the shrimp heads and shells…

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…and stir until the shrimp shells have turned completely pink.

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Add 500 ml water…

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…and the chili flakes. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

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Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat.

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Pass the shrimp stock through a chinois, pressing down firmly on the solids to get out as much shrimp juice as possible. You should end up with about 320 ml (1 1/3 cup) of shrimp stock. Reduce the shrimp stock over medium heat if you have more, or add water if you have less.

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Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in the pressure cooker over medium heat. Add shallots and ginger, and sauté until the shallots are translucent. Make sure not to allow the garlic to burn. Turn off the heat.

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Add 80 ml (1/3 cup) shrimp stock.

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Add the squash and parsnip.

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Close the pressure cooker. Bring to pressure over high heat, then lower the heat (but high enough to maintain pressure) and cook for 20 minutes (15 psi, USA) or 23 minutes (90 kPa, Europe) (the latter is my personal guestimated adjustment).

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Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry and combine with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 Tbsp lime juice, 1/2 tsp salt, and a minced clove of garlic. Stir to mix, cover, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator.

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Depressurize the cooker by running water over the rim.

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Transfer the contents of the pressure cooker to a blender, and add the remaining 250 ml (1 cup) of shrimp stock.

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Blend until completely smooth.

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Pour the soup into a pan or pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the soup with salt, fresh lime juice, fresh ginger juice, and cayenne pepper. Gently heat the soup, stirring regularly, until it is simmering. Then keep it warm over low heat. (Be careful with high heat, as the soup is a thick puree that will splash violently.)

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Rub the shrimp to remove the garlic, pat dry with paper towels, then mix with a tablespoon of olive oil. Heat a non-stick frying pan until it is hot and then add the oiled shrimp. Cook for 30 seconds over high heat, then turn them over and turn off the heat. The shrimp should be nicely golden but barely cooked through.

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Divide the soup onto 4 preheated plates or bowls.

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Top with the sautéed shrimp and garnish with scallions. Serve at once.

Wine pairing

We enjoyed this with a sylvaner from Alto Adige, Italy. Another dry, full-bodied aromatic white would also work, e.g. from Germany or Alsace. An unoaked viognier or full-bodied grüner veltliner could also work.

Flashback

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These brownies pack as much chocolate as possible. They are no more difficult to make than other brownie recipes, but they are a hell of a lot more delicious! I also like that these brownies fool you a little. Did you think you saw walnuts in those brownies? Look again, because it’s white chocolate chips rather than walnuts.

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