How to Prepare a Great Lobster Bisque at Home
Bisques are a type of soup, historically based on crustaceans, (crayfish, lobster, shrimp, or crab), that are thickened in one of a myriad of ways, and then finished with cream.
Naturally, bisques are smooth, creamy, and rich. But the flavor of the base seafood should be poignant and not overpowered by the succulence. Not surprisingly, bisques are French in origin and often associated with more lavish eateries.
This lobster bisque will look at all things Lobster Bisque. Not only will it include some great recipes but it will look at how bisques differ from chowders, a little history, cooking videos and a few other surprises.
I would like to thank my friend Chef Mark Vogel, a wonderful food writer who provided me with his well researched article about lobster bisque that I incorporated into this lens.
What Is the Difference Between a Bisque and a Chowder
I know, you thought they were the same thing – right?
Bisque differ from chowder in that chowders usually employ potatoes, are thickened with roux, and are chunky. However, it is not uncommon for bisques to contain pieces of whatever seafood they are based on.
Traditional bisque’s are thickened with rice, breadcrumbs, and/or the puréed meat or shells of the crustacean in question. Contemporary versions rely on roux, (as in the recipe below), in conjunction with concentrating of the cooking fluid via simmering.
According to Wikipedia, it is believed the term “bisque” is “derived from Biscay, as in Bay of Biscay, but the crustaceans are certainly bis cuites “twice cooked” for they are first sautéed lightly in their shells, then simmered in wine and aromatic ingredients, before being strained, followed by the addition of cream.”
According to the Food Lovers’s Companion, a chowder is “a thick, chunky seafood soup, of which clam chowder is the most well known. The name comes from the French chaudiere, a caldron in which fishermen made their stews fresh from the sea.” “The term is also used to describe any thick, rich soup containing chunks of food (corn chowder).”
How to Buy Lobster & Not Get Ripped Off
“Buyers Beware” Whether you are buying whole Maine lobster or frozen lobster tails, you have to be careful to purchase quality products and not get ripped off. I have written two articles that look at these situations and recommend you read them before buying any lobster products online. You can find them at:
Cookware for Preparing Lobster Bisque
Working With the Correct Tools Makes the Job Easy
To steam the lobsters you will need a lobster steamer or large stockpot with a steamer insert. To make the lobster bisque, you’ll need a large stockpot or soup pot. Here are a few recommended items to check out if you don’t own them.
The Unpleasant Task – Killing the Lobster
Lobster bisque presents a perplexing quandary to the average home cook. It begins with killing the lobster. No, not merely by dropping it in boiling water, (which is already beyond what many can stomach), but with a chef’s knife driven right between its eyes.
As lurid as this sounds it’s actually the most humane approach as it instantaneously severs the brain. The lobster is then broken into its component parts and utilized to produce a stock which forms the basis of the soup.
So why can’t you just boil the lobsters?
Because, like any food, boiling leaches flavor. Beginning your bisque with pre-boiled lobster will undermine the soup’s intensity.
But don’t worry. If you don’t have the nerve to do a Jack-the-Ripper on your lobster, I have a decent compromise for you: Steam your lobster and then use the leftover water as the base for the stock.
Whatever flavor has dripped into the steaming water will be reintroduced to the dish. Plus I add a secret ingredient to augment the seafood essence which we’ll get too shortly.
What About the Roe and Tomalley? – It’s All Good
Some chefs like to include the roe and tomalley (liver) in the soup to push the lobster flavor even further. If you’re as squeamish about eating the eggs and liver as you are about plunging a knife in its head then this a moot point.
However, if you are a connoisseur of the creature’s offal then we’re kinda back to the stabbing conundrum.
Traditionally, the roe and tomalley are removed before cooking, (which obviously means you have to kill the lobster by hand). They are then whisked into the soup just before presentation.
Of course, you can steam the lobster and then remove them but again, you will compromise some flavor.
Remember this caveat for all cooking: Whenever you save money, time, labor or unpleasant emotions, it almost always comes at a cost of flavor.
But First, A Little Lobster Fun Entertainment
Brought to you by the B-52s
Lobster Bisque From The Venetian Room – Recipe
Lobster Bisque Recipe
- 2 lbs uncooked lobster
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- 1 carrot peeled and chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- Small bunch parsley
- 10 cups water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons dry sherry wine
- 2 tesaspoons cognac optional
- 2 teaspoons fresh chervil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash lobster well.
- Separate the head from the body/tail by inserting knife into first membrane layer holding the two together.
- Combine head, celery, carrot, onion with half the butter in large sauce pan saute everything for few minutes, add the flour little by little, the tomato paste, the water, salt & pepper, parsley, and bay leaf.
- Bring to a boil; simmer 15 minutes, skimming as necessary. Strain, reserve 8 cups stock and tail.
- Using scissors, extract meat from reserved tail by cutting through shell and carefully peeling away meat. Slice in medallions.
- Melt the other half of butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add lobster medallions and cook for 10 seconds do not over cook the lobster; add reserved stock and heavy cream.
- Bring to boil, stirring constantly until thick and creamy. Finish with Sherry wine, cognac, salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot.
So What If You Don’t Want To Make It at Home
Don’t worry, you can always buy it in a can. I have no idea how these lobster bisque in a can taste and I’m sure they are not as good as homemade, but I’m all about options.
If you absolutely can stomach the thought of cooking your own lobsters as described in the recipes above but you just have to have some lobster bisque, these may be a great alternative.