Can anyone tell me where that pretentious-sounding soup called bisque may have originated?
Among the French cookbooks, Escoffier seems to have been the first to throw 15 crayfish into a sautéed vegetable mixture, making a white consommé, then to purée the lot before adding heavy cream and some extra fish for good measure.
Was he making a joke when he called this soup a bisque, when colloquially, faire bisquer means to be vexed or riled?
This is not a soup to get anyone upset — not even the cook. All you really need is some already-boiled and picked-out lobster meat and a healthy appetite.
Reading the directions in some cookbooks for producing a lobster bisque might cause some concern, since many of them pick up where Escoffier left off. One cookbook notes that it takes “2 hours, or rather more” to produce a decent bisque. Some recipes include rice, tomalley, white wine, cognac, fish stock and olive oil, which seems to me the long way around.
A reader sent me a recipe some years ago, offering the true spirit of lobster bisque without the intensive labor involved in Escoffier’s convoluted directions. Everything is readily available, including (this year) the economically priced lobsters. Be sure they’re right out of the water, cooked and picked out the day before you prepare this recipe, and refrigerated overnight. Please use real sherry and not the “cooking sherry” on the grocer’s shelf. Also, the use of tomato paste is crucial, as is the Old Bay Seasoning.
Ann Natasha’s Lobster Bisque
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 4 to 5 cups of lobster meat, cut in medium chunks
- ½ cup unsalted butter, divided
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 (14½ oz.) cans chicken broth
- ¾ cups dry sherry
- 4 cups light cream, or Half & Half
- 3 tsps. tomato paste
- A few dashes of white pepper
- 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
- Paprika to taste
In a large saucepan, sauté the lobster meat in 1/4 cup melted butter, stirring constantly on medium-high heat until no butter remains, about 5 minutes. Remove lobster and set aside.
In the same saucepan, melt the remaining 1/4 cup butter, add onion and cook while stirring until soft. Sift in the flour, mixing well, and keep stirring until blended.
Slowly add the chicken broth. Continue to cook until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more, then add the sautéed lobster meat and the dry sherry. Bring to a simmer, then slowly stir in the light cream, the tomato paste, white pepper and Old Bay Seasoning. Heat through. Garnish the bowls with a sifting of paprika.
With this, you might serve hot buttermilk biscuits or crusty French bread, a green salad with a simple dressing and something quite light for dessert — perhaps these Lemon Squares, easy as they are delicious.
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup confectioners sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten slightly
- 2 cups sugar
- 6 Tbsps. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix the first three ingredients and press the mixture onto the bottom of a 10-by14-inch pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour this on top of the pastry. Put this in the 325-degree oven and bake for 40-50 minutes.
When done, remove from oven and sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.
(This will make 2 or 3 dozen squares, depending on their size.)