1 lb medium or large shrimp, shelled, shells reserved
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon Pernod, optional, plus additional for serving
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 large leeks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped, fronds reserved for garnish
1/4 cup long-grain rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
1. In a large pot over high heat, cook shrimp shells in 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring frequently, until lightly browned in spots, about 3 minutes. Add wine and brandy and Pernod if using, and boil until most of the liquid is evaporated. Add 6 cups of water and the thyme and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
2. Strain shrimp stock into a bowl, pressing on the shells before discarding them.
3. In the same pot, melt another 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the shrimp and sauté until they are pink, 2 to 4 minutes depending on size. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl.
4. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of the butter to the pot with the celery, leeks, garlic, and fennel and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, tomato paste, cayenne, and remaining salt and sauté for 2 minutes. Add shrimp stock and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
5. Set aside 4 to 6 nice shrimp and stir the remainder into bisque; let cook for 2 minutes. Working in batches, pour the bisque into a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids or add a couple of ice cubes to the blender while blending), then return to the pot. Or, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup. You can puree the soup to be as smooth or chunky as you like. Stir in the lemon juice and additional salt to taste. Reheat if necessary before serving. Garnish each bowl with a shrimp, a drizzle of Pernod if desired, and a piece of fennel frond.
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