Oh Lobster, how I love thee. It is often the food of choice for celebrations and holidays, and understandably so! But this time of year, a rich and creamy lobster bisque is my perennial Valentine’s favorite. Bisque may sound intimidating, but I promise you it is not. So this weekend, skip the crowds, stay at home, and cook for the people you love.
Seafood lovers may or may not realize that once upon a time, long, long….long ago, lobster wasn’t always considered the rich, delectable, delicacy that it is today. When the first settlers arrived in North America, there were so many lobsters that they would wash ashore and pile up two feet deep. They were considered the poor man’s protein. They were often fed to prisoners and indentured servants held by the European colonists.
By the late 1800’s Maine had become a destination for wealthy urbanites looking for getaways from the big cities. With lobster being the state specialty, well-heeled visitors elevated lobster to the delicacy of choice, becoming symbolic of luxurious eating and dining. Since the late 19th century, lobster has managed to hold its own as a coveted cuisine.
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4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely minced
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 dashes of Tabasco hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups stock, preferably lobster (fish works too)
3/4 cup dry Sherry
1/2 cup Cognac
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound cooked lobster meat, chopped
Finely chopped chives, garnish
Lobster claw meat, cooked, optional for garnish
Heat butter in a large, heavy stock pot over medium high heat. Add onion, shallots, carrots, and celery to the butter. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and smoked paprika. Cook until tomato paste coats vegetables, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in flour and cook, 1 minute more.
Pour in stock, Sherry and Cognac. Add bay leaf and thyme. Reduce heat and let simmer until liquid is reduced and flavors marry, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
Remove bay leaf and thyme and purée with an immersion blender until very smooth. Return to medium-low heat and stir in heavy cream and lobster meat, cook until warm, about 5 minutes.
Before serving, garnish with chives and lobster claw meat.