24 September 2011

Bisque and a Book - 'The Lobster Chronicles' by Linda Greenlaw

Back in the day, lobsters were poor folk food. Don't laugh! There were actual laws prohibiting prisons from feeding their prisoners lobster more than once a week! Just imagine! Well, there's no problem in this grey cottage with eating lobster frequently - that is , if the budget would just allow!

Summertime is the time for me to splurge a few times and buy lobsters from a guy down the road. His son has a lobsterman's license over on the coast of New Hampshire, so he sells his catch inland, where he has a sure market. I go into his little shop and pick a few out of the tank, but I rarely consider all the hard work that goes into harvesting these bottom feeders. It's constant work, maintaining lobster traps and lines, hauling, baiting , resetting them. The tourists always love seeing the little lobster boats chugging in and out of harbor, but they don't consider the work either when they are tying on their lobster bibs and bellying up to a table of boiled lobster with drawn butter.

Linda Greenlaw addresses that issue for anyone curious enough to wonder just what does go into being a lobsterman (er ... woman). She has written a chronicle of a year in the life of a lobsterman and I must say, she doesn't romanticize things. It's a hard life that one has to love in order to keep to ... the sea can be a cold, dangerous, unforgiving environment. Currents can play havoc with equipment, weather conditions can be life-threatening, political intricacies can make for bad blood between fellow lobstermen, and the lobsters can come and go (often at the worst possible times). Still, Greenlaw keeps at it ... and writes of her life with honesty, poignancy, and humor. This was a fun summertime read, but on this first day of Fall ... and in honor of Homarus americanus, I am making a Lobster Bisque this evening to have with fresh bread and a green salad.

Get yourself some fresh lobster and have a go at making the bisque too! Lobster's just about as cheap as it will get this season! Enjoy!

This bisque is a no nonsense, easy version ... no grinding crustacean shells or sieving ingredients. If you have an immersion blender, you're all set. I do recommend using fish stock and clam broth in the soup for a fully flavoured bisque. Let the mire poix cook slowly to develop the flavours of the veg before creating the roux and adding the stock and I like bits of lobster meat in the spoon when I eat the soup, so I reserve some of the lobster meat and add it after whizzing the soup to a beautiful smooth finish with the blender. You may do what you wish, though. The website on which I found this recipe suggests a dollop of sour cream with minced tarragon as a garnish ... I love tarragon with lobster, so I'm including their suggestion, but that is strictly fluff ... do what you will.

Lobster Bisque

Serves: 4 or 2 with leftovers

2 - 3 c. cooked lobster meat, coarsely chopped (I bought 3 lobsters - a bit over1.5 lb each)
½ c. dry Sherry
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
½ c. chopped onion
¼ c. chopped celery
¼ c. chopped carrot
salt and pepper
½ tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 c. whole milk
1. cup half&half
1 c. strong fish stock

sour cream and fresh tarragon sprigs for garnish
slices of toasted rustic bread to accompany

Making the Bisque:

1. Boil the lobsters and remove the claw, leg, and tail meat. Reserve the broken claws and legs for stock preparation.

2. Bring fish stock to a simmer, add the reserved lobster shells and leave to simmer abit.

3. In the bottom of a soup pot, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, and carrots. Let the mire poix sauté until the veg is soft and golden. Add the Old Bay
Seasoning and pinches of salt and black pepper.

4. Add the flour and stir to make a roux. When the flour has 'cooked' for about a minute, strain the fish stock into the roux and stir to thicken. Add the dry Sherry and continue to stir to make a thick sauce.

5. Stir in the tomato paste and mix well to incorporate the paste completely.

5. Warm the milk and half&half in a small saucepan just until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan.

6. Slowly stir in the hot dairy fluids, stirring to incorporate to a smooth soup.

7. Add the cooked lobster meat and continue cooking for a couple minutes. Use an immersion blender to whiz the soup to a smooth bisque - no lumps.

8. Correct the salt and pepper to taste. Keep just warm until ready to serve.

9. If you reserve some lobster meat to add at the last minute to the bisque, allow it to warm in the bisque.

10. Spoon into shallow bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle on just a bit of freshly minced tarragon.

11. Serve with warm toasted rustic bread.

12. Enjoy!

Post Recipe Note:

I didn't blend this as long as I should have. It's consistency wasn't the smooth and creamy soup that I expected, but it was chockful of seafood flavour and the tarragon and sour cream was a good touch. Next time, though,  I will put it in the blender and really let it rip.


  1. Lobster are not available here on the west coast, but how's about crab. I love East coast lobster and can find it at the fishmongers of course. can you imagine having to limit your consumption of lobster to less than once a week. I wish:D

  2. my mouth is watering but my pockets are empty!... Lobster is expensive here now. In fact I can't remember the last time I ate it, which is dreadful!

  3. Oh my - I'd so love a bowl of that bisque, looks delicious!

  4. I think I own this book. I have a stack of "to be read" books! I know I own a few of hers, including her cookbook, which I believe she wrote with her mom. I'll have to check my cookbook bookcase for it now! LOL!!!

    Also, thank you for your kind words about my mom, she will be forever missed and in our hearts.

  5. What an interesting history on the lobster. Loving in the midwest, we do not have easy access to sea food, so it would be more of a luxury then a poor mans food. Love what you did with this!

  6. I have read this book. Linda Greenlaw is such a strong woman. Lobster is on the cheaper side right now. I love lobster anything!!!


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