Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lobster bisque

  • Get a friend or fishmonger to give you lobster leftovers. I had cooked shells and heads from two. Chop up the heads and break their legs. See tips.
  • Fry a finely diced carrot, celery stick and onion in butter. If you're feeling fancy, go ahead and call this a mirepoix. But do it in the privacy of your own home, in case you get the pronunciation wrong.
  • Once the veggies (as I will go ahead and call them) have softened, add a dollop of tomato purée (I'll trust you on the pronunciation of this one) and stir.
  • Get the lobsters in. Hoorah! Make sure the heat is highish.
  • Add some brandy and white wine and let it sizzle.
  • When you can bear to stand over the pot, inhaling without passing out from the alcohol, move on to the next step.
  • Insert bay leaf, parsley stalks, sliced garlic, a chopped tomato, dried thyme, salt, pepper and water til it's nearly covered, not submerged.
  • Yes, you guessed it, bring to thy boil.
  • Simmer gently for an hour or so adding cream halfway through.
  • Strain and bring back to a gentle bubble. Optionally whiz for aesthetic, cappuccino-style froth.

NB At this point I thought I was done, so I served and took photos. The soup was delicious. However, it was rather thin so I decided to go against a number of authorities on the matter and thicken it with a roux. This is what I did:
  • Place equal quantities of butter and flour (let's say 20g each) in a pan on a medium heat. Mix with a wooden spoon until they come together in a uniform paste. If it is dry and crumbly, add a little more butter. If it looks wet and does not amalgamate into a blob add a little more flour.
  • I used about a tablespoon of roux for the bisque above (I had to remove a little from the pan).
  • Now add a ladelful of your hot bisque into the roux and mix. You may feel more confident using a whisk at this point, but the spoon will do.
  • Your mixture will separate and look lumpy and unappealing. Don't worry. Continue mixing and make sure the heat is not too high. If so, just lift the pan off the hob for a moment as you continue to mix.
  • Once you have a uniform consistency, go ahead and add more bisque and repeat the mixing process.
  • Have faith.
  • At each stage, make sure all the lumps are incorporated before adding more bisque.
  • The more liquid the bisque becomes, the more bisque you can add at a time. 
  • You should end up with a slightly thicker, silkier consistency which coats the spoon rather than slipping straight off.
  • Congratulations, you have disobeyed some lobster bisque authorities, but at the same time made one of the most important and satisfying culinary basics ever created. (Béchamel is made in the same way but with milk as the liquid.)

Right. What did it taste like? Dee-lish! I was really happy with the rich, lobster flavour I got with my mere leftovers. I think the tomato and brandy were essential additions to the vegetable base. And I chose to use a sweet white wine because I really thought this would compliment the overall dish. I was right! But I do have a sweet tooth when it comes to savoury food.

  1. Use dry white wine if you want a more savoury flavour - simple.
  2. I used Armagnac. You can use Cognac if you like.
  3. I lifted the head-shell from the brain (?) from the neck end. It may need a little tug, but you can do it. Then I chopped the heads into small pieces and broke up and craked the rest of the shells and spindly legs to ensure maximum flavour extraction. I saved the head-shell for decoration but I don't see why you can't smash that up and get it in your soup too.

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