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How to Make Lobster Bisque

Learn to make this classic soup for a special occasion.

Fine Cooking Issue 115
Photos: Scott Phillips
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I’ve lived in New England all my life and have always adored lobster, but it wasn’t until I moved to Maine several years ago that I really got hooked. Lobster is king in Maine, and living in the midst of the fishing culture has inspired me to cook and eat more of it. One dish I’ve really grown to love—and have made many times for special occasions—is rich, velvety Lobster Bisque.

For centuries, bisque has been regarded as a dish of sumptuous high style; it was once the standard by which the best hotel dining rooms in Europe and the United States were judged. It can also be a project, with classic recipes calling for upwards of 25 ingredients and a two-day cooking method that involves pulverizing shells, flambéing brandy, and repeated straining. Though they’re delicious, I’ve learned that these recipes are more effort, mess, and expense than they’re worth. The recipe here is my streamlined version. With far less fuss, it yields an opulent bisque that will make any lobster-lover swoon.

Need to Know

Add the steaming liquid to the broth. The liquid that’s left behind from steaming the lobster is full of flavor. Adding it to the broth makes the bisque that much more lobster-y.

Thicken the bisque with flour. Although classic bisques are thickened with rice, I find that it gives the bisque a grainy texture. Instead, I like to use flour, which produces a silky-smooth soup.

Sauté the shells before using them in the broth. Cooking the empty lobster shells in butter teases additional flavor from them, which makes for a richer broth. Flattening them before cooking allows more of the shells’ surface area to be in contact with the hot pan.

Use the lobster meat in the soup and for garnish. Puréeing some of the meat into the bisque ups the lobster quotient; using chunks of lobster for garnish makes it extra luxurious.

Refrigerate the soup overnight for more intense flavor. Although the bisque is delicious served immediately, letting it rest for several hours after cooking amplifies its lobster taste and allows all of its ingredients to marry.

Tool Kit

In addition to your everyday kitchen tools, you’ll need these items to make lobster bisque:

• 8- to 10-quart stockpot
• Nutcracker and picks
• Kitchen shears (or chef’s knife)
• Meat mallet (or small pot)
• Fine and medium-mesh sieves


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