My Favorite Seafood Bisque

This week we’re coming off the drama of Lolly attempting to amputate one of her own digits while working in my kitchen last Wednesday evening.  She disrespected my razor-sharp Shun chef’s knife and, not surprisingly, it bit her.  So, after a trip to the ER for some stitches, she has sworn off cooking in any form for the foreseeable future.  But she has not sworn off eating as long as I’m the one taking my chances with those viciously sharp implements of doom that populate my kitchen.  And tonight she wanted seafood bisque.

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This recipe is my adaptation of one that I found in an older edition of the Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home book. Every time I have made this dish so far, it has been extremely well received.  It’s doubly enjoyable because it’s super-easy and comes together in under an hour beginning to end. Here is what you will need for 6 servings:

  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 qt. seafood stock
  • ¼ cup long grain rice
  • 1 tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 lobster tails (about 4 oz. each)
  • 1 lb. imitation crab or lobster meat
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • ¼ cup dry sherry

A quick note on ingredients:  I use imitation meat for this dish for a couple reasons.  First, the taste is beautiful and so is the color.  Second, a full pound of real crab or lobster meat will cost you multiples more without making a dramatic difference in the taste, and the color will actually be less attractive, in my humble opinion.  Imitation crab or lobster meats are both made predominantly of Alaska pollock, which is a respectable fish in its own right, so they’re basically interchangeable, and unless you’re a hardcore New England purist about your bisque, the imitation stuff will work just fine.

So let’s get started already.  In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and sweat the shallots until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and, when it has begun to boil, stir in the stock, rice and ketchup. Bring the heat up to high just until the mixture begins to boil, then back it down to low and cover the pot to simmer until the rice is cooked, which will take about 20 minutes.

While that is going on, bring a separate pot of water up to a full boil. Add the lobster tails and cook them for 4 minutes, then remove them from the water to your cutting board to cool until you can handle them comfortably.  Using a pair of good kitchen shears, cut through the shells and remove the tail meat.  Carefully remove the dark colored vein at the top center of the tails, then dice them up and set them aside for now.

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Back to your main dish, when the rice is finished, remove the pot from the heat and add the imitation meat.  Now it’s time to puree the soup.  My tool of choice is my handy-dandy Cuisinart Smart Stick immersion blender, but you can also use your Vitamix or similar stand blender if you work (very carefully) in batches.  Either way, blend the soup to a smooth, creamy consistency, then whisk in the cream, salt and cayenne, followed lastly by the sherry. Return the pot to low heat to maintain serving temperature, and stir in the reserved lobster meat to add a little texture to the finished dish, but keep back some of it for garnish.

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And with that your bisque is ready to serve. Garnish with a light sprinkle of cayenne and some of those last bits of reserved lobster meat, add a little crusty buttered bread on the side, and you’re off to the races. We absolutely love this dish, and there are big happy grins all around whenever I make it. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!

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