Lobster is one of those indulgences that never loses steam with me. I will always remember Christmas Eve dinners as a child where the standard holiday fare was steak and crustacean. Normally my dad would buy the tails and cook them up as they were, but one year he decided to try and boil whole live lobsters. Being the animal lover that I was, I found this a bit perturbing that we were going to kill a living creature for our dinner just a short time later. I couldn’t bear to watch the moment my friend became my meal. Of course, once he transformed into that familiar red shell with the rich white meat nestled inside, all was forgotten and dinner resumed.
Fast forward about 20 years and here I sit again with a live lobster, chilling on my kitchen island, claws rubber banded, looking at me as though he thinks that if he can just bat his eyes a bit longer, I’ll relent and make a drive to the beach for a movie inspired freedom release instead of a three step walk to my pot rack. I eye him carefully, thinking about what I’m about to attempt and hoping it won’t be as difficult as it feels. I think about the lobster bisque reward at the end and it keeps me moving forward.
Disclaimer: This video is an introduction to a live lobster, who I aptly named Moe, about to become dinner. If the thought makes you uncomfortable, simply step down to the next paragraph.
In one quick swoop I cut the bands, plunge him in head first, slam the top down, and then walk away and take a few minutes to manage the extreme guilt I’m feeling. Let’s face it, it’s hard to think about where our food comes from. The majority of us are so removed from the whole process that if someone didn’t tell us we were eating chickens or cows, we probably wouldn’t even know it. As difficult as it is to kill a living creature for food, it’s a part of life and as we begin to pay more attention to where our food comes from and how it was treated, it’s a task that we need to experience now and again in order to better appreciate the meal put before us.
Before I wade into the recipe, I also need to disclose that I am by no means a lobster expert. This was my first foray into the live crustacean world and while my soup turned out perfect (at least in my opinion), I’m well aware that there is more than one way to cook, cut, and eat a lobster. Having grown up in Wisconsin, about as far from an ocean as you can get in the US, I’m here to learn as well and would love to hear different, better, or more creative ways to go about achieving the finished results. In other words, go easy on me.
The first step in putting together a delicious bisque is to head over to your local lobster depot and buy yourself a live one. You want his shell to be hard and free of spots and his tail should flap and curl under when you pick him up out of the water; no sluggish, sickly lobsters allowed.
I realize that there are many methods for cooking a lobster. I did boil mine but heard later from a few of my Northeastern friends that steaming is the preferred way to go. Pick whichever way works for you and run with it. I promise not to judge. For more information on cooking times, check out THIS site. It was my lifeline throughout the process.
Once your lobster is cooked and cooled, you’ll want to remove the meat. The majority of the meat is in the tail and the claws. I’ve put together a video of my attempt to cut through my lobster. Again, there may be better ways to go about doing this, but as a general guide you can see what I did and maybe sneak a smile or two at my
not so much somewhat witty banter.
Ok, your lobster meat is now out, chopped and set to the side. Next you’ll want to clean out all the insides from the shells and then throw them into a large stock pot along with some water (you can use the lobster water you boiled him in if you chose that method), a bit of wine, some butter, a selection of vegetables and a couple herbs.
Cover the pot and let it boil gently for about an hour and a half. Once it’s finished, grab up a small holed strainer and separate out all the large pieces.
To make the soup you’ll heat up some butter and flour in a large sauce pan to create a roux and cook it on medium heat until the butter begins to brown. Love, love, love browned butter. It gives such a wonderful nutty flavor to anything you add it to.
Once it’s good and browned, you slowly pour in the broth, turn the heat up a click, and bring it to a boil to thicken up. Turn the heat back down to low and add in a little cream, worcestershire, and sherry. Add in a pinch of saffron and finish by salting to taste.
Ladle your bisque into a bowl and top with a small handful of the the chopped lobster and a sprinkling of minced tarragon.
Sit yourself down and prepare to relish not simply a mere crock of bisque, but the fact that you yourself put it together from start to finish and acknowledged the life that went into creating the completed dish. It may not always be the easiest task to perform, but an appreciation for the ample food we have and what we choose to eat makes us better chefs, better food connoisseurs and better stewards of the living environment around us.
Yield: 6 Cups Soup
Total Time: 2 hour 30 min
For the Broth:
1 Whole Live Lobster, mine was approx. 1.5 Pounds
6 Cups Water reserved from boiling lobster
2 Cups White Wine
2 Tbsp Butter
2 Stalks Celery, Roughly Chopped
2 Carrots, Roughly Chopped
1 Leek, Roughly Chopped
6 Oz. Sliced Mushrooms
2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
1 Branch Tarragon
2 Bay Leaves
For the Soup:
5 Tbsp Butter
5 Tbsp Flour
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
3 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tbsp Sherry
1 Pinch Saffron
1 Tbsp Tarragon, Minced (for garnish)
Salt to Taste
Boil up a pot of water and submerge your live lobster, rubber bands removed and head first, into the bath.
For a 1.5 pound lobster, set a timer for 12 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the lobster and allow to cool. Add an additional 5 minutes per extra pound up to 3 pounds. Your lobster should be red and his tail should be curled under his body.
Remove the meat from the lobster (see video above for more instruction), chop into bite sized pieces and set to the side.
Reserve 6 cups of the lobster water and the lobster shells.
To the water, add in the shells, wine, butter, celery, carrots, leek, mushrooms, garlic, tarragon, and bay leaves.
Cover and boil gently for about an hour and a half.
After the broth has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and strain liquid.
In a large saucepan heat up the 5 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and let cook, stirring frequently until mixture begins to brown; about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add in the broth and bring to a boil to thicken.
Turn down heat to low and add in the heavy cream, Worcestershire, sherry, and saffron.
Add salt to taste.
Garnish bisque with a handful of the lobster pieces and a dusting of the minced tarragon.