2 Soups, One Base

My husband and I love, love, LOVE fresh seafood. We also live, live, LIVE in rural Northern Iowa where we have limited access (at best) to the good stuff we love. Over the years, we have found ways to liven up the flavors of frozen and sometimes even (shhhh) canned seafood to tide us over to our next trip to a coast or island where we can enjoy the good stuff. Sure there is fresh looking stuff in the bigger grocery stores around our area but guess what, folks… IT GOT TO THE STORE FROZEN! I prefer to have it remain that way until it hits my kitchen counter. After suffering the aftermath of food-born illness from our honeymoon, I have a serious lack of trust in other humans to preserve the integrity of the food I consume.

Here, I am giving you 2 simple and sophisticated soups to enjoy that give you options for frozen (and one option for canned) seafood with bold enough flavor to mask the bite from the freezer (or metallic flavor from the can). What’s more? Both bases are coconut milk making them dairy and gluten free. Even better than that? One of them involves the use of “kitchen scraps”. As my grandmother who grew up during The Depression would say, “Waste not, want not”.

Smoked Clam Bisque

This soup is incredibly decadent with its creamy, smoky goodness. You can choose to buy live clams in the seafood section of the store and smoke your own or you can “cheat” and buy a good quality canned-in-oil variety.

When a clam is smoked, it gets this almost mousse texture to it that is interesting yet scrumptious. Oooh! (Squirrel) Gives me an idea for a crostini. Recipe to follow. Back to the show. If you choose to use fresh clams, check out a tutorial on how to properly clean them. I plan to add things like this at a later date. For now, youtube it.

I always choose to include my ingredients before the directions in my recipes because I am writing for folks, like me, who get started cooking before looking to see if they have everything they need. I have made MANY trips to the store mid-simmer to grab one more thing.


  • 1 can full fat coconut milk (You can use a light version but just remember that when they remove fat, they replace it with water or, in some cases, sugar. Also, fat is flavor, folks.)
  • 1/2 cup smoked clams
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt (saltier than regular so be sure to take that into consideration if you plan to sub)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper (a must for covering up unwanted can taste)
  • 4-6 saffron threads (These are NUTTY expensive but worth it. They can be substituted with some smoked paprika.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbs brandy or a good white wine


Empty coconut milk (scrape top and sides of the can) and brandy into a medium sauce pan. Whisk until the texture is smooth. Simmer the coconut milk, brandy, bay leaf, salt, pepper and saffron over medium heat. DO NOT let it boil or you will end up with an ugly, broken mess. When a sauce “breaks” the fats separate from the liquid and it kind of looks curdled. Super unappetizing and definitely renders the dish not Insta-worthy. Depending on your type of stove top, this should take 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add smoked clams. That’s it. Simple. Sophisticated. Your friends will be impressed. Just be sure to remove the bay leaf before serving. If you want to up the level of sophistication, you can add a couple more saffron threads to the top and drizzle with some good quality olive oil before serving.

Serves 2-3 people

*Don’t mind all of my parenthesis. I somehow got it into my mind early on in my “writing career” that perhaps people know to keep what you put between those two curved lines a secret.

Coconut Curry Shrimp Soup

This next soup I made during the Polar Vortex. The real temperature that day was -17 and the “real feel” temp was in the -30 to -40 degree range. I spent the day over the stove testing recipes just to stay warm. I made this soup for lunch and it seriously warmed me from the inside out. Curry has this wonderful thermogenic effect. I added a little siracha garnish to up the heat factor. Here it is.


  • 1/2 lb frozen uncooked shell-on de-veined shrimp (save the shells)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 1.5 tbs red curry paste
  • 1tbs sesame oil
  • 3 shakes of fish sauce (no more, no less)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • coconut cream for garnish (or heavy cream if you have a “no hoots given” attitude about dairy)
  • cilantro for garnish (You can leave this out or sub scallions if you have an aversion to cilantro. Both my sister and my idol, Ina Garten, hate cilantro so if I were cooking for either of them, I’d leave it out. I hope to cook for Ina one day.)


Peel shells and tails off of each shrimp. Set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium/high heat, pour in sesame oil and drop in your curry paste. This is an important step because all of the spices in the paste will bloom like a tulip in May (or maybe July around here ‘cuz this snow is going nowhere fast). Cook for about a minute or until your kitchen smells like a Thai restaurant. Saute shrimp in sesame oil and paste mixture until just barely pink. This will probably be less than 1 minute on each side. You really want to under-cook them at this point because the residual heat from the soup will cook them fully later. An over-cooked shrimp tastes like a rubber band. No good. Bonus points for doing it over super high heat and getting a little sear on each side. Remove shrimp from pan and add shells. Cook until the shells are pink. Add a small splash of water (we are talking like a tablespoon) to de-glaze the pan. Remove shells. Keep that yummy quick broth you just made in the bottom of the pan. Add in the coconut milk (again, scrape the sides and top), salt and fish sauce. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Remember not to EVER boil a high-fat base. Turn off the heat and put those little par-cooked shrimp back in the pan. Garnish with your choice of the above ingredients. You could also do toasted chopped nuts for added texture. Serve immediately or immediately after taking your perfect food shot for IG.

Serves 2-3 people

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