Our New Year's Eve dinner, hosted by friends E and J, was possibly one of the best meals of the year. Kir royales. Radishes with cultured butter and sea salt. Lobster bisque. Pan-roasted duck with thyme-infused honey sauce. Roasted root veggies and a green salad. Lemon cream tart for dessert. Truly delicious!
I brought the lobster bisque. Since a few of you requested the recipe during my guilt-ridden lobster confessional, I thought I'd share. It's good timing, too, because my CSF (community supported fishery) is once again offering lobsters for sale. Every once in a while, Cape Ann Fresh Catch offers a special item not usually found in our fish shares. They call it "Neptune's Share" as it is priced separately and based on availability and nature's whims. That meant mussels last summer and lobsters this winter. You know I can't pass up these opportunities. (To get your own self some lobsters, go here.)
The recipe below is based on the lobster bisque from the Brewster Fish House, one of our favorite restaurants on Cape Cod. Instead of pureeing the lobster into oblivion (which is also good!), they suspend chunks of lobster in the silky soup. It's sweet and spicy, and I've wanted to learn how to make it for years. However, I'm not going to ask them for their recipe. They're not going to give it to me, and why should they? Just because I like it? Everybody likes it! I figure, if I want it that badly, I should try to figure it out myself. And guess what? I'm really happy with the way it came out! I mean, we're not giving up our yearly summertime visits to the Brewster Fish House anytime soon. Don't be ridiculous. But this is deliciously, tantalizingly close!
This is not a quick recipe by any means, but if you're going to slap down the money for lobsters, you might as well put some effort into it! You will need lobster crackers, some patience, and several hours to spare. I sometimes boil the lobsters the night before, letting them cool in the refrigerator until morning.
2 live 1-1/2-lb. lobsters
1 Tbsp. kosher salt, plus 1 tsp.
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 Tbsp. flour
4 cups lobster stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. brandy
1/4 tsp. cayenne
White or black pepper to taste
Bring a large stockpot with a half-inch of water, 1 Tbsp. kosher salt, and the vinegar to a boil. Drop in the lobsters, close the lid, and steam 20 minutes until done. How do you know if they're done? Set a lobster on its back and stretch out the tail. It should snap back against its belly convincingly. Remove from pot and let cool until shells can be handled easily.
Over a large bowl, separate tails, claws, and arms from bodies of the lobsters. They should pull apart easily. To remove the meat from the tails, use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut straight down the middle of the underside of the tail. Pull back on sides of tail to separate the shell and remove meat. Dice tail meat finely as it can be chewy in larger pieces. Remove meat from arms and claws using a lobster cracker to crush the shells so you can extract the meat. Careful: shells can be jagged, pointy, and sharp. Cut claw meat into larger, bite-sized pieces. Place all the lobster meat in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F, and set the bodies and empty shells on a rimmed sheet pan. Bake shells 20 minutes until toasty and fragrant. Transfer shells to a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, skim the foam from the top, and simmer 30 minutes. You can get fancy with the stock (bouquet garni and such), but I did not. Strain out and discard the shells, reserving the liquid. You will need about 4 cups of stock. Freeze the rest for future bisques or lobster risotto!
Make sure the stock is still steamy when you start the soup. If not, reheat in a small pot. Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over low heat. Add the onions and celery, and slowly sweat the vegetables until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Do not let brown. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add heated lobster stock slowly while stirring. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Let cool completely. In four batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Yes, I know we haven't added the lobster, yet. Patience! Also, make sure the soup is cool and that you don't fill the blender more than halfway or you will spray hot soup all over your kitchen. You want cool soup, small amounts of liquid in the blender, and a dishtowel placed over the top of the blender lid just in case. Pour batches of pureed soup into a bowl as you go.
When ready to serve, add the pureed soup back into the pot. Add in the lobster meat, cream, brandy, 1 tsp. salt (or to taste), pepper, and cayenne. Gently heat the soup until hot and steamy. Do not boil. After all this, you don't want to risk curdling the cream. Keep an eye on it. Serve hot in small shallow bowls.