Degree of difficulty: medium (it involves live lobster...)
Time: 20 minutes prep, 1 hour total cook time, many steps in between
Serves: 6 to 8
For some reason (expense!), this bisque tends to surface only on my holiday menus at Thanksgiving and Christmas. But if you sub in shrimp (and the shells) for lobster, it can go year-round.
This lobster bisque is from the Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins cookbook, The New Basics. They were the owners of the Silver Palate gourmet shop in NYC years ago and authors of several Silver Palate cookbooks. The soup recipes in The New Basics are wonderful, and I've scribbled notes of exclamation in the margins of just about all of them.
2 fresh lobsters (1 1/2 pounds each), split and cleaned
5 tablespoons butter
1 diced peeled carrot
1 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
6 tablespoons brandy
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, canned or homemade
2/3 cup dry white wine
6 tablespoons sherry
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
3 cups half-and-half
2 ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
Right from the get-go, I have to depart from the recipe. I don't do well having to knife the lobster between the eyes. So I boil the little dudes for maybe five minutes, drain and cool.
And since lobster was pricey when I shopped, I split the difference and used just one lobster and some large prawns that were on special.
Remove the lobster meat, pour 3 tablespoons sherry over it, mix, and reserve.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large saucepan over medium heat, add carrots, bay leaf, onions and shallots and cook until the onions wilt, 5 to 7 minutes. Do not let them brown.
Put tarragon, parsley and lobster shells (break them up a bit) in saucepan, pour brandy over and ignite.
When flame goes out, add 1 cup of the chicken stock and the white wine. Simmer over low heat, partially covered, for 15 minutes.
In separate saucepan, melt the remaining butter (4 tablespoons). Add the flour and blend with a wire whisk over low heat for one minute.
Bring the milk and half-and-half to a boil in another saucepan. Add this to the flour, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Add this to the reserved broth and lobster shells.
Tired yet? No? Good.
Stir in the tomatoes and cayenne. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the remaining stock and simmer another 45 minutes.
Taste and season with salt if necessary.
Pour soup through a fine strainer, pressing down on the shells and vegetables with the back of a spoon.
Return soup to the saucepan and heat through. Stir in the reserved lobster meat. Serve immediately.
Suggested soundtrack: Ledisi's "Pieces of Me"