The other day I read the phrase: “If travelling was free, you’d never see me again!” and I immediately added it to my repertoire. Already moving on to the Fourth Destination: France. Only 48 places left, 48 weeks of cooking, 192 dishes to explore. I’ll finish 2014 with a blast and I gotta say: the Foodie’s Wanderlust Adventure it’s been a lot more fun than I thought. It’s also been a lot more work than I thought, but the good kind. When you enjoy something so much, you can do it over and over, every single day, and rarely get tired from it. But then, how can you get tired tasting so much good food? And now France? For New Year’s? Oh come on! A dream come true! And what a better way to start the week than with a delicious lobster based soup, lobster bisque.
Long and hard has my poor liver worked this last week of Christmas. It’s been an ode to Spanish cava and reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. But there will be no truce this week as the celebrations keep coming. Of course this time, the French way. The fragrant, hearty and smooth Lobster Bisque is the perfect picker-upper to help me move on for the next round of festivities. As I recently discovered, the French celebrate New Year’s Eve very much like I like to do it. In very small groups, between very close friends and family, a fête intime.
But, they don’t wait for the night to arrive. Being a country of food lovers, they commence the feast early and eat their way through until the bells of midnight strike the beginning of a new year. So for the start of the le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre, as they call it, how about some lobster based soup for lunch? It will be a long night of eating afterall. We might as well start with something creamy, light but fulfilling. The flavour of this soup is so intense that you don’t need much more to feel satisfied. And to have lobster bisque for lunch unquestionably feels festive and special.
Lobster Bisque is one of those dishes that require many steps if you really want to achieve a high quality soup. But don’t be discouraged by that, since all the steps are quite simple. In fact the word Bisque is believed to come from “bis cuites” (twice cooked). The lobster bisque recipe was conceived as a way of using “imperfect” crustaceans that could not be sold in the market. In order to extract the maximum amount of lobster flavor, the crustaceans are cooked twice, so the name fits perfectly. On the famous Julia Child’s book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2, she instructs not to wash off any of the instruments used in the process of making the lobster bisque so not a bit of flavor goes down the drain. You gotta love that woman!
Mirepoix is one of the most important ingredients used in the Lobster Bisque. It refers to an mixture of equal proportions of onions, carrots and celery that is very traditional of the French kitchen. It is basically an aromatic base used in many preparations. It can be compared to the Spanish sofrito, the Portuguese refogado, the Italian soffritto and many other flavor bases used around the world. The important thing here is that the mirepoix enhances the lobster bisque in a way only french cuisine can. In the end, the flavors of the lobster bisque are tied together by heavy cream. This recipe renders a spectacular pinkish red creamy soup, thickened with rice, brightened with tomatoes and spiked with wine. Just set your Lobster Bisque at the table with a basket full of french baguette slices and a bottle of very good Chardonnay such as Chablis (or a Mercurey if you can find it), and you are set for the best start of your Saint-Sylvestre celebration a la Francaise.
- 1 cup Chardonnay (or any other good dry white wine)
- 4 cups fish stock
- 1 cup beef stock
- 4 cups water
- 4 lobster tails (about 3 pounds total)
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup onion (chopped)
- 1/4 cup carrots (chopped)
- 1/4 cup celery (chopped)
- 1 cup leeks (chopped)
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 1/3 cup long grain rice
- 1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp minced fresh tarragon plus extra for garnish
- 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 cup clam juice
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Prepare the lobster tails by cutting the shell longwise on the bottom part using strong kitchen scissors.
- On a big pot, bring to boil the white wine, fish stock, beef stock and water over medium heat. Add the prepared lobster tails and cook until the shells are pink, about 10 minutes.
- Take the tails out of the stock and bring the fire to low. Wait for about 5 minutes for the tails to cool enough to handle. Using your hands remove the shells from the tails being careful not to pierce your skin, they can be quite sharp.
- Put the shells back in the stock and reserve the lobster meat in the fridge. Simmer the stock with the shells for 30 minutes at medium low heat.
- Strain the stock into a bowl. Discard the shells and reserve the liquid in a bowl.
- On the same pot the stock was made, melt the butter at medium low heat. Stir fry the onion, carrot, celery and leek for about 15 minutes until they are soft, translucent and sweaty.
- Bring the heat up to medium high and add the sherry. Cook for about 3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol.
- Incorporate the rice, tomatoes, bay leaves, tarragon, white pepper, paprika, garlic, salt thyme, cayenne pepper and the reserved stock. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium low heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. At the end of this time check the rice, its grains should break easily if pressed with a spoon against the side of the pot. If rice is not ready, keep simmering until it is really tender.
- Remove the pot from the fire. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), puree everything until you get a really creamy liquid with no lumps or pieces on it. It should be completely liquid. To this liquid add the heavy cream in two additions so that the bisque stays warm. The consistency of the bisque should be a creamy liquid. If you find the soup too thick, add clam juice little by little until you achieve the desired consistency. Taste the soup and correct for salt and pepper accordingly.
- Cut the reserved lobster meat into bite sized pieces. Using a skillet, sauteé the meat with 1 tbsp of butter at medium high heat for 2 - 3 minutes. Now incorporate the lobster into the soup, mix well and serve immediately garnishing with chopped tarragon.
- Use the 30 minutes while the stock is getting ready to measure and prepare the rest of the ingredientes. As the french call it, "mise en place". This will make the making of this soup much much easier.