Living and working near the craggy, arresting beauty of coastal Maine for 30 years, has offered up at least as many memorable “lobster feeds” at my home with loved ones. A magnificent mess! What’s more comforting than the luxurious, yet healthful mouth-feel of sweet lobster bisque? Some folks place a large chunk of lobster meat on top for show, but why try digging a fork and knife into a hot bowl of creamy decadence that is already perfect as it is? If you want a lobster tail, have a tail. If you want a bisque, enjoy the sensuous mystique of mine. It’s really not as complex as your envious guests will imagine that it is.
Sumptuous Lobster Bisque en Bread Bowl
Created in measurements of 2s for simplicity:
Prep time: 2 Hours
Calories: 310 +/- without dipping toast
- 2-pound hardshell live lobster: avoid supermarket lobsters. Or substitute crabs in the shell. SAVE ALL SHELLS.
- 2 Bread Bowls (having an extra one — just in case — is brilliant). Save the cored-out bits to toast and dip.
- 2 Small onions, chopped roughly for stock.
- 2 Small onions, minced for bisque.
- 2 Carrots, cut in half for broth.
- 2 Carrots, minced for bisque.
- 2 Lemons, one to drop whole into the broth. One to slice for garnish.
- 2 Cups purified water.
- 2 Cups milk.
- 2 Cups veggie, chicken, or seafood broth. (Clam broth, sold in bottles by the tuna fish in supermarkets, is a very cool, umami option.) Any combination of these works well.
- 2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil.
- 2-4 Tablespoons butter. Not margarine.
- 2 Celery sticks, cut in half for stock (* try using half of a celery root. They are just ideal for this recipe, if you dare peel one to reveal its elegant loveliness.)
- 2 Celery sticks or 2 heaping tablespoons of celery root, minced for bisque.
- 2-4 Garlic cloves, crushed for stock.
- 2-4 Garlic cloves, minced for bisque — more is fine — use caution not to overpower the delicate seafood.
- 2 Glasses of a nice French Chardonnay, like High Table, for the bisque.
- 2 Glasses of same Chardonnay, to serve chilled with the meal. (don’t economize on wine in a recipe like this. Some prefer brandy, which is fine to replace.)
- 2 Heaping teaspoons of tomato paste.
- 2 Heaping tablespoons of corn starch or flour.
- 2 Teaspoons white pepper (black works fine).
- 2 Full sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed, for bisque.
- 2 Sprigs fresh thyme for garnish.
- 2 Shakes dried parsley.
- 2 Capsful onion powder.
- 2 Dashes of celery salt, if available.
- 2 Tablespoons sea salt, with black pepper, for stock.
- 2 Teaspoons sea salt for bisque.
- Into 2 inches of salted, boiling water, respectfully drop the lobster and cover. (They do not scream. That is a myth. They are cold-blooded, so they haven’t the neurology required to sense pain. Some chefs prefer to pierce or stun the lobster first.)
- Boil, covered lightly to create steam, for 10 minutes. This is less than the full time needed for a 2 lb lobster, but for a bisque, the meat should be opaque in the center.
- Remove all of the meat, chop all into thumbnail-sized chunks, into a bowl to refrigerate.
- (Drop all shells and body into a stock pot of their own.)
- Boil the shells on medium-low for 20 minutes: with roughly chopped onions, celery root or celery, carrot, garlic, half a lemon, the water, broth, salt, and pepper. Stir occasionally. Skim the foam. Drain into a large bowl. The fragrance rising from the broth is heavenly.
- Heat up 1/2 the oil and 1/2 the butter into the empty stock pot; simmer on med-low a basic mirepoix (finely chopped onion, celery and carrot) until soft and tender but not browned. Add garlic, parsely, thyme onion powder, celery salt, sea salt or iodized salt, pepper, and 4 oz. wine — or water. Stir.
- This step happens quickly: in an airtight container, vigorously shake milk and cornstarch or flour until smooth. Pour into the savory soup pot, stirring constantly. (For flour to activate as a thickening agent, it needs to come to at least a bubbling simmer. But this works against many cream and milk dishes — they should be scalded, not readily boiled.) It’s a thin line; stir over low heat until it’s quite thickened.
- Keep stirring while adding the stock in small amounts, until a velvety texture emerges. You may not need all of the stock. Add the remaining 4 oz. of wine, and PULSE in the food processor, or use an immersion blender, just until some lumps remain for texture. Continue heating.
- Vigorously blend in the tomato paste. Add the remaining butter. Fold in the lobster meat and continue simmering and stirring for 5 minutes. (Lightly stir in cream – or swirl on top – just before serving.) Do not overcook.
- Have carefully carved out the bread bowl, being sure to leave a solid base all around. Break up and toast the extracted bread chunks for dipping.
- Gently ladle the bisque into the bread bowl, and garnish the plate with lemon and fresh thyme.
Perhaps hoist one to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association fishermen and women who risk their lives in all weather to bring these briny wonders — from the tempestuous North Atlantic — to the peace of your table.
For 30 years, Pat’s been a widely published travel/environmental writer, organic gardener, and explorer of hidden coves and mountain trails around New England. Born into her family’s New York deli, she started up and operated a large organic cafe’ & arts mecca, and in her spare time has been a head chef for her community’s soup kitchen (where she’s a.k.a. “The Singing Chef”) — transcending farmers market bounty into succulent, nutritious and memorable meals that just make people feel good.