(Bisque of Crab, Crayfish or Lobster Shells)
Serves 2 - 3
I call this "Stone Soup" because it's made with whatever shells you collect
after a crab, crayfish or lobster feast. It is literally made from nothing -- the empty,
outer shells that would otherwise be thrown away. The only tricky part about this soup is
having on hand a very, very fine sieve (in French this is called a "chinois").
Don't attempt this soup if you don't have this kind of fine sieve.
After a crab, crayfish or lobster feast, I collect all the empty shells and freeze them
in a large plastic bag until I am ready to make Stone Soup. The shells are very perishable
(and smelly) so you should freeze them immediately. I would not recommend keeping them
frozen for more than 10 days before you make this soup. If using crab, try to reserve the
"caviar" - the yellow part of the crab and whatever accumulations you find in
the top part of the carapace.
The final consistency of the soup will be surprisingly thick, even though no thickening
agent is used. It is satisfying winter fare.
To make the soup:
(This recipe assumes you are using shells from 2 whole medium-size crab or the
equivalent amount of crayfish or lobster shells.)
- Remove the shells from the freezer and let them defrost for about 30 minutes.
- While shells are still in the plastic freezer bag, break them into small pieces using a
- Heat about 4 TBS. olive oil in a large stew pot. When hot, add the shell pieces.
- At this point, you can also add whatever other aromatics you might have on hand.
-- dark green tops of green onions
-- clove whole garlic, peeled and crushed
-- feathery tops of bulb fennel
-- diced carrots
-- coarsely chopped onions
- Sauté the entire mixture for about 10 minutes over moderately high heat.
- Add about ½ cup brandy or cognac and turn up the flame to very high so that the brandy
- Add about 1 cup of dry white wine and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add water and some fish stock (if you have it on hand) to barely cover the shells. Cover
the pot and cook at a simmer for about 2 hours.
- Off heat, in batches, puree the hot stock together with the shells and all aromatic
vegetables in a blender. (It is best to do this in small batches.)
- Put each batch first through a coarse sieve, then through a very fine sieve or chinois. (If you don't have one of these, then you won't be able to
remove enough of the ground up shell pulp. Your soup will have an unpleasant, gritty
texture of ground up shells!)
- Discard the pulp.
- Reheat the sieved soup and reduce it to your desired consistency over a moderate flame.
At this point, you can also add cayenne or pimento powder for zing. While the soup is
boiling down, you can also a little more olive oil to enrich the flavor. (Adding the oil
this stage while the soup is boiling down will emulsify the oil into the soup.)
- Ladle the soup into warm, shallow soup bowls.
- Top with toast triangles and a dollop of aļoli (flavored with
pimento and garlic) on each toast triangle. Pass the remaining aļoli in a bowl for those
who want more.
- Green salad with cherry tomatoes provides colorful accent.
Beat 1 egg yolk until light and frothy; then gradually add about ½ cup oil olive while
continuously beating. Don't over beat.
When the sauce has thickened, add a clove of garlic put through the garlic press, a
dash of sea salt and ¼ tsp pimento power (you can also use cayenne or paprika).