I had a delicious calzone topped with a balsamic roasted cantaloupe and arugula at Portland's Oven and Shaker recently. I had never had nor thought of roasted cantaloupe, but it was surprisingly good -- it still tasted like melon, but deeper and almost squash-like. I knew I wanted to incorporate it into a sweet and savory dish, but I didn't have much direction.
The shellfish contest got me to thinking, “how can I use roasted canteloupe with shellfish?” I tried it with crab in a salad and was underwhelmed, so I decided to use it in a soup. The color reminded me of shrimp bisque, so that's the direction I went. I didn't want the base to be overly fishy, so I went with chicken stock. The resulting soup was mildly sweet with a little bit of spice. The shrimp and cantaloupe flavors balanced each other out, while the addition of a little bacon, cayenne, allspice, and sherry vinegar rounded everything out. Give it a try for your next fancy dinner party. —hardlikearmour
Test Kitchen Notes
The best way to describe this bisque is rich and complex -- it blows you away a bit! I love the addition of the vinegar and cayenne, which elevates it from your typical creamy soup to something much more interesting. You’ll end up with something that’s sweet, spicy, salty, and acidic, all at once -- and you’ll get a bit of each flavor in every bite. I added the roasted cantaloupe directly to the broth and used a hand blender, which worked well and allowed me to add it to taste and adjust the sweetness to my liking. —LucyS
4 to 6
large cantaloupe (about 5 lbs)
salt, plus additional to taste
thick-cut slices hickory smoked bacon
medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
fennel bulb, bulb chopped and fronds set aside
medium to large cloves garlic, minced
chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons
chopped fennel fronds*, plus additional for garnish
Preheat oven to 425º F with racks in the upper and lower middle positions. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.
Cut cantaloupe in half. Scoop out and discard seeds. Cut each cantaloupe half into 6 lengthwise wedges. Remove and discard the rind, and cut each wedge into 4 equal pieces. Transfer cut cantaloupe to a bowl, and sprinkle with sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss until evenly distributed and transfer cantaloupe to a colander. Allow to drain for 20 minutes.
Shake the colander to get rid of residual juices. Arrange cantaloupe in a single, uncrowded layers on the prepared sheet pans. Roast for about 30 minutes, swapping rack positions after 15 minutes. The cantaloupe is done when the juices have fully caramelized around the bottoms of the cantaloupe, it has darkened a bit in color, and has a few brown spots on the surface. Err on the side of more cooked than less if you aren't sure.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer roasted cantaloupe to food processor. Set aside.
While cantaloupe is draining and cooking, start the bisque. Devein about 40% of the shrimp, leaving the shells on them. Leave them whole. Peel and devein the remaining 60% of the shrimp. Set aside the shells. Cut each peeled shrimp into 4 or 5 pieces. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Prep your onion, fennel bulb, and garlic. Keep the garlic separate from the onion and fennel. Chop the fennel fronds and set aside.
Cut bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Heat along with the olive oil in a dutch oven or large stock pot over medium heat, stirring frequently to promote even cooking. When the bacon is halfway crisp, add the whole shrimp to the pan. Cook shrimp for 60 to 90 seconds per side, until shell is pink. Remove the shrimp to a cutting board and remove the bacon to a small dish, leaving the fat in the pot.
Add the onion and fennel to the pot. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom. As the veggies release their liquid you will be able to scrape the yummy brown bits up. While the veggies are cooking, coarsely chop the shrimp. After the veggies are soft and translucent (about 5 minutes), stir in the garlic and the shrimp shells. Stir continuously for about 2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant. Add the flour and stir for another minute or so, until no bits of dry flour are visible. Add the bacon, cooked shrimp, wine, and chicken stock to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and lower heat to maintain a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer. Push on the solids with a wooden spoon to obtain as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Wash and dry the Dutch oven.
Transfer a cup or so of the liquid to the food processor with the roasted cantaloupe. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth and no chunks of cantaloupe remain. Transfer the cantaloupe mixture and the remaining soup to the clean Dutch oven. Stir in the cream, cayenne, allspice, sherry vinegar, and fennel fronds. Heat over medium-high flame to a simmer. Add the reserved peeled and cut shrimp, and cook just until opaque -- about 60 to 90 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding additional cayenne and/or sherry vinegar to taste. Garnish with fennel fronds, and serve immediately.
*If you can't find fennel with fronds, feel free to use chopped dill or a teaspoon of chopped tarragon instead.
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.