This past Memorial Day, the hubs and I decided to try a recipe that was a little challenging and also had some sentimental value. Our late brother-in-law, Mitch, used to make the best lobster bisque – he brought it to every family holiday. Mostly because every one in the family requested (insisted on) it.
He knew I loved to cook and that I was a little adventurous so a few years ago he gave me the cook book that had his recipe in it. He got it from In The Kennedy Kitchen with recipes from Neil Connolly. This cookbook has lots of good Irish favorites and New England classics. It was an excellent gift and I always told Mitch I couldn’t wait to make his bisque.
Unfortunately, we never got the chance to make it before he passed away last year. So this past weekend we thought – enough putting it off! And what a fun way to spend a holiday :)
Now, I’m pretty intimidated by the thought of cooking lobsters, so the hubs agreed that he would do the messy part, and I would take care of the rest. One tip for folks dealing with whole, live lobsters – get ready for a HUGE mess!
Neil’s recipe is a little different – we did ours a little different to start with. (Mostly, because I didn’t read ahead far enough!) I’m pretty sure that Mitch fudged with the recipe too – but I will have to keep testing it to get it just like his!
For the Stock:
2 live 1 pound lobsters
3 sprigs of fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh tarragon (I used dried, about a teaspoon)
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons of whole peppercorns
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons of brandy
2 tablespoons of dry white wine
3/4 cup of tomato puree (I blended together diced tomatoes and tomato paste)
For the Bisque:
8 cups of the stock, separated
1/2 cup of basmati rice
1 cup half and half
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of chopped lobster meat
2 tablespoons of dry sherry
1 tablespoon of brandy
We boiled the live lobsters one at a time in a large pot. Make sure your pot is pretty big – the water has to completely cover the lobsters. I put 4 tablespoons of sea salt in the water ahead of time. Our lobsters were a little over a pound each and we boiled them for 6 minutes and quickly removed them and put them on ice. Be sure to plop them in head first and cover them immediately (and cover your ears so you don’t hear the poor things clawing around!)
When you pull the lobsters out try to uncurl the tail as much as possible and lay it flat on the ice. After they have cooled – cut them open and remove the meat and reserve the shells.
To remove the meat was a messy process – so I let the hubs take care of it. First he used a large chef’s knife to slice underneath, from the “chin” to the tail. Under cold running water, hold the head upwards and your thumbs along the cut you just made. Pull it apart to rinse out all the organs (fun part, huh?). Use your hands to clean out any stragglers. Once that is done, pull the tail from the rest of the body. The tail meat should be easy to remove. Pull of the claws and crack them to get to the meat. Chop off the head and pull the legs from the remainder of the shell and clean out all the rest of the organs.
Chop up the meat in small bites and put in the fridge til later.
In a large sauce pan add some olive oil and get it real hot. Add the carrots, celery, onions and brown for about 3 minutes. Add the lobster shells, brandy, and the wine and cook for another minute. Finally add the tomato puree, the spices, and about 10 cups of water. Boil for 30 minutes. (Up til now is where we differed from the recipe – Neil says to have the lobsters cut up into chucks by your fish monger and then cooked with the veggies before removing the meat. I think this probably would have added more flavor than my method).
Remove the shells and strain the broth. Set back on the burner to boil another 5 minutes. Strain through a sieve to remove any tiny bits.
For the soup – I used Minute rice :) And I cooked it and blended it in the blender with 3 cups of the broth, until smooth. Neil says to get regular basmati rice and cook it in the lobster stock – I should have done this step too. I was trying to cheat. :)
Add 4 cups of the broth to a small sauce pan and add the cream and rice mixture. The recipe called for half and half or light cream. I used half and half, but I remember when Mitch made it, it was much creamier and richer. My guess is he used heavy cream instead. Or maybe cream cheese. Either way, next time I will be trying one of those to get a thicker texture. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I added a lot, it needed some umph) If you are feeling frisky, add some cayenne pepper. Mitch added just a bit to give it some kick.
Meanwhile, in a small pan add the butter and heat the lobster meat for about a minute. Add the sherry and brandy and let cook for another minute. Spoon some of the meat into a bowl and top with the liquid.
All in all – after the cooking of the lobster – it wasn’t really that difficult!
We had ours with a simple egg salad and ripe cantaloupe slices. Perfect way to spend the extra day off – good food and remembering a fantastic guy!