This past Labor day weekend my family got together in Maine. Our main Labor day weekend dinner was – Yup – Lobster! We went through over 25 lobsters. Imagine my delight at the thought of Lobster bisque on the horizon. We cleaned the shells (some of those little legs still had some meat which also helps flavor the broth), in cleaning, we remove the “rib” cage, roe, etc. Head, and all shells are rinsed and used. I NEVER throw out the shells and always take them home to make a very flavorful broth that can be frozen and used later.
Some chefs grind the shells (same with shrimp bisque), I don’t, I just break them apart and use them whole. My version of creating the broth (same recipe can be used for Shrimp Bisque) works great and really extracts the lobster flavor.
I was lucky that I had so many shells as I made gallons of broth and will make over 20 quarts of bisque. However, for 4 quarts of bisque, you really only need shells from about 4 – 5 lobsters. And if you are in part of the country where you do not have access to summer lobster (where the price is low), then by all means use store bought lobster broth. Whole Foods, Fairway and large supermarkets are now carrying it.
I served this soup along with my clam chowder at a work “Soup Lunch” fundraising event in Nov 2014 with about 15 – 20 different soups. Both went fast, down to the last drop. They were well liked. There were other soups there I am seeking recipes for – so don’t be surprised if you see more soup recipes soon.
Yield: 4 – 5 quarts of soup
Making the broth
1.5 TBS Olive Oil
3 ribs of Celery with leaves, roughly chopped
2 large Carrots, roughly chopped
1 med Onion, quartered
2 sprigs fresh Thyme, Oregano
1 handful Parsley
2 Bay leaves
Shells of 4 – 5 lobsters, cleaned
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
water – LOTS
**Note – Salt is left off intentionally. Salt will be added when used in the final soup. Adding salt now could render the final product too salty.
1.) In a large stock pot (8 quarts), heat the oil over medium-high heat for 1 minute
2.) Add in the celery, carrots, onion, herbs, bay leaves and garlic. Let sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring each minute.
3.) Add in the shells and continue sautéing for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning, browning is OK. this process starts to release the flavors of the ingredients.
4.) Once the aroma in the kitchen starts to make you hungry, it is time to add the water (approx 5 quarts). Add enough water (warm or hot), to cover all ingredients and then exceed by 2 – 3 inches (does not have to be exact, just all ingredients need to be covered).
5.) Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat to med-low and let simmer for 3-4 hours or until a 1/3 of the water has evaporated. Stir occasionally.
6.) After the liquid has reduced by 1/3, place a fine mesh (small holes) strainer over a large bowl or another large stock pot, and strain the liquid into the clean bowl/pot. Discard all of the solids. KEEP the liquid.
7.) Return the liquid to med heat and reduce again by 1/3 (about 1 hour) (taste – if too watery, then continue to reduce checking every 15 minutes). You should end up with 6 – 8 cups of broth. The most important part is that you have at least 6 cups of broth and it has loads of flavor.
If using the same day, keep warm over low heat while you make the bisque. If freezing for later, let cool, then place in zip lock freezer bags, releasing as much air as possible. This will keep in the freezer for at least 6 months.
Making The Bisque
2 TBS Olive Oil
2 Shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 -4 sprigs of fresh Thyme and oregano (keep on stems for easy removal later)
1/2 can Tomato paste
2 cups dry Sherry (cooking sherry works just fine – one bottle)
1 can 14.5 oz Diced tomatoes
1 can 14.5 oz Tomato Sauce
1 quart Heavy Cream
1 quart Light Cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1.) In a clean large stock pot (about 8 Qts) over med heat, add the oil, shallots, garlic, a few grinds of pepper, thyme and oregano. Saute until they become translucent ( about 5 minutes). You want to sweat (putting in the items with cold oil over med heat to release liquids) these, NOT brown them.
2.) Next add in the tomato paste, increase the temp to med-high. Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking and burning. It is ok to lightly brown the tomato paste at this point. Just keep stirring. This process takes about 5-7 minutes.
3.) Deglaze the pan using the sherry, stir well, and let simmer for another 5 – 7 minutes until the liquid reduces by 1/3 to 1/2.
4.) Add in the tomatoes, stir and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir every few minutes. Taste to check flavors.
5.) Fish out the stems from the herbs and discard.
6.) Puree the mixture. You can strain at this point to remove any pulp from the tomatoes, or leave them in. I usually do not strain if I pureed long enough. That is your call.
7.) Add the tomato mixture back to the pot and add in the lobster stock. Stir and simmer another 10 – 15 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.
8.) Next add in all of the cream. Stir well and let simmer approx another 10 minutes, stirring often so the cream does not burn on the bottom of the pan. Taste, adjust with salt/pepper as needed. The liquid will reduce and thicken as it simmers. Continue to taste adjust with salt, perhaps a splash of Sherry as needed.
That is it – Enjoy with a nice piece of Italian/French bread, diced lobster meat (if you have some) and you can even garnish with a few pinches of Parmesan.