Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lobster Bisque: Heaven in a Bowl

It's a little ironic that my first post is lobster bisque. There was a time when culinary achievement for me was not burning something in my crockpot, my how things have changed! This really isn't a difficult recipe, but it is a bit involved and time consuming.... keeping that in mind, please know that you will not be sorry with the investment. Ok, let's get started!

Meet my friends Ethel and Fred! They're each about a pound and a quarter to a pound and a half.

We're just going to let them hang out in the sink and say their goodbyes while we bring a large pot of water to a boil. When I say a large pot, I mean LARGE. I used an 18 qt stockpot that was about 2/3 full.

Once the water is boiling, take your friends and just drop 'em in head first. Seriously... just drop 'em in... it's ok... you can do it. Once the water returns to a boil, let them cook about 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, fish out your little buddies and let them cook in a strainer in the sink until they're cool enough to work with. This may take a little longer than you think. Keep in mind that when you crack Fred and Ethel apart they'll be full of hot liquid... so if you think they're cool enough, give it another 10 or 15 minutes. While you're waiting, go ahead and cut a few carrots, some celery, garlic and onions into large chunks and throw them into the water in your stockpot. Turn the heat back on to high til it starts boiling again, then turn the heat down and let it begin simmering.

Now it's time to clean the lobsters. To start, separate the claws and tail from the body, just twist them right off.

The easiest way to remove the meat from the tail is to slice down the middle of the underside shell and then just pry it open with your hands. The meat will come right out in one piece.

Now for the claws. The best way I've found to crack lobster claws is to place the blade of a heavy knife on the flatter side of the claw and hit the top of the knife gently with your hand. This makes a crack in the shell and you can then just break it in half. When the claw meat is exposed, go ahead and grab the smaller claw and pull it out, this will remove the cartilage holding the meat in the claw.

Set the meat aside in the fridge until later. If you want you can go ahead and chop it now, but we don't really need to do that until later. Take the bodies and the shells and put them in your stockpot with the veggies you started simmering earlier. Let the stock simmer for at least 2 hours, I usually let mine cook down for around 3 hours. Strain through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. What you'll have when you're done is a wonderful lobster stock that you can use in many seafood dishes. The great thing is that you won't need it all for this recipe, so put the leftover stock in ziploc freezer bags in 2 cup servings and freeze for later use. Just save 1 1/2 cups for this recipe. All of the above can be done a day or two ahead.

Ok, now let's make some bisque!

Start by melting 1/2 cup of butter in a large, heavy sauce pan. Stir in 1 Tbs of sweet paprika and then whisk in 1/2 cup of all purpose flour until smooth. This is what you'll start with:

and this is what you want to end up with:

Keep whisking this over medium low heat for about 3 minutes to cook the flour. Next, get some of this (I usually find it in the soup aisle of the grocery store with the rest of the bouillon):

Measure out 1/4 cup and slowly dilute by pouring in a little of the reserved stock at a time. Trust me, do this slowly or you'll end up with a clumpy mess. Go ahead and mix in 1/4 cup of cream sherry, then slowly whisk the sherry/stock mixture into your roux until well combined.

Next add in 4 cups of whole milk in the same manner, whisking it in slowly.

Heat this mixture through and add in 2 Tbs brandy and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar (start with a 1/4 cup and then add to taste from there). Finish off your bisque with 1/2 cup of heavy cream and your chopped lobster meat. Now comes the hard part... trying not to eat it all before you get it to the table :) Enjoy!

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