Lobster Bisque for Valentine’s Day!
Lobster, with it’s high price tag, short refrigerator life, and fatty sidekick (butter!), tends to be a financial and dietary indulgent for many of us. Valentine’s Day is one of the handfuls of times that people are willing to spend the big bucks on this saltwater splurge (not to mention take the time to separate the delicate meat from it’s hardy shell). This year, why not try a more elegant approach to lobster and turn it into a rich, velvety soup. It’s decadent and creamy, and the best part is, you do all the cracking and cleaning in the kitchen, saving yourself messy hands, piles of shells, and swearing (in my husband’s case) at your nicely set dinner table.
There aren’t many recipes that I follow to a tee; I usually end up changing ingredients, altering amounts, and differing cooking methods, but this recipe is SPOT ON! No modifications necessary, unless, of course, you can’t muster the courage to handle a live lobster. In that case, substitute 2 uncooked lobster tails for the real deal. Note: Live lobsters can survive in the refrigerator for up to 24-hours, either in a plastic bag, or in a bowl of fresh water. Before cooking, place the lobster in the freezer for 30 minutes. This puts them in a hibernated state, making them easier to handle, and less intimidating to you. And, if it makes you feel any better, the first time I cooked a live lobster I wore workmen’s gloves and noise canceling headphones because I was sure I’d be able to hear it scream — it didn’t, and I looked ridiculous. (Recipe from Fine Cooking.)
For the broth:
- 1 1-1/2- to 1-3/4-lb. live lobster, rinsed
- 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter
For the bisque:
- 2-1/2 oz. (5 Tbs.) unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1-1/8 oz. (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbs. tomato paste
- 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbs. cream sherry
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the broth:
In an 8- to 10-quart stockpot, bring 1-1/2 inches of water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tsp. salt and the lobster, cover, and steam until bright red and one of the smaller legs twists off easily, about 18 minutes. Remove the lobster with tongs and reserve the steaming liquid.
When the lobster is cool enough to handle, twist off the claws and the tail. Using a nutcracker, crack the knuckles and claws and push out the meat with your little finger or a pick. Set the tail on a hard surface and use your hand to press down and crack the shell; push out the meat. Slice the tail meat in half lengthwise and remove the black intestinal vein. Dice the meat from one claw and half of the tail and set aside for garnish. Coarsely chop the remaining meat. Reserve the shells.
Rinse out the tomalley (green matter) from the upper body. Split the body lengthwise and use your fingers to remove the innards. (If the lobster is female, you’ll see bright-red roe; leave it in the body for additional color and flavor.)
Use kitchen shears or a chef’s knife to break the body and reserved shells into 1- to 2-inch pieces and then use a meat mallet or a small pot to flatten them.
Measure the steaming liquid and add water to total 6 cups of liquid. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flattened shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to blister and their color intensifies, about 5 minutes. Add the liquid and 1/2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface.
Strain the broth through a fine sieve into a large liquid measuring cup. You should have 4 cups—if there’s more, boil until reduced to 4 cups; if there’s less, add water.
Make the bisque:
Clean and dry the saucepan and melt the butter in the pan over low heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic and cook until softened, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, until golden and bubbly, about 2 minutes.
Add the wine, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf; bring to a boil, and cook, stirring, until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the lobster broth and cook uncovered over medium heat until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped lobster meat and simmer for 2 minutes to heat. Remove the bay leaf.
In a blender, purée the mixture in batches until smooth. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve back into the pot, pushing on the solids with a wooden spoon.
Stir in the cream and sherry, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook the bisque over low heat until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Serve the bisque garnished with the diced lobster meat.
Make Ahead Tips
The bisque and lobster garnish can be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day. Reheat over medium-low heat before serving.
Sidekick: Both Valentine’s Day and lobster bisque call for uncorking a bottle of bubbly. My favorite is Veuve Clicquot Rosé, but if you’re not one for champagne, try a big, buttery Chardonnay instead.