Lobster Bisque

Maine Lobster Bisque

As I mentioned in my “Welcome 2011” post, I capped off 2010 by cooking two big meals. A couple of weeks ago I posted the stout-braised ribs. Today I bring you the lobster bisque. This post is just over one month in the making (read: delayed), so stick with me through a couple of holiday season references for background.

As you might know, I’m from Maine. And as good Mainers do, my family eats lobster on Christmas. Lobster stew to be specific. My father is usually in charge of the cooking, but I decided take the reins this year and make lobster bisque.

After searching through several recipes, I settled on one of the two bisque recipes featured in The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser. While all of the recipes featured in the cookbook are from years of articles in the Times, this recipe comes from an article written by Hesser herself in 2005.

I stuck to the recipe for the most part, but I did make two significant adjustments. First and foremost was to up the number or lobsters. The recipe called for one lobster – I used four. Lobster bisque is typically light on lobster meat, but we like lots of lobster meat where I come from. The second change was the shrimp. The recipe includes unpeeled shrimp and uses the shells to make the stock. But Maine shrimp, which are small and typically come peeled at the store (similar to rock shrimp), were in season – so I went with those instead. This meant I couldn’t use the shells in the stock, but luckily I had extra lobster shells to help make up the difference. For the purpose of the recipe below, I included the additional lobsters, but left the original instructions for the shrimp.

Overall, the recipe yielded a rich, creamy, silky, hearty bisque with a generous amount of lobster meat. As they say in Maine, it was “the way life should be.”

Lobster bisque in the pot

Lobster Bisque
Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook
Serves 6


3 tspns kosher salt
4 1 1/4 pound Maine lobsters
1 pound medium shrimp, shells on
12 white peppercorns
6 sprigs thyme
3 TBSP butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 tspns grated lemon zest
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 TBSP tomato paste
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
6 TBSP long-grain rice
1/4 tspn cayenne pepper


Bring 8 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil. Add the lobsters, head first, to the water, cover and cook for 11 minutes. Remove the lobsters from the pot and be sure to reserve the water. Set the lobsters on a rack above a pan to catch any juices. Remove the meat from the shells and reserve, chilled. Reserve the lobster shells as well.

Cooked lobsters

Peel, devein and save all the shells of the shrimp. Reserve the shrimp.

In a large dutch oven, add the reserved water from the lobster pot, any lobster juice from the pan, the lobster and shrimp shells, white peppercorns and 3 sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain the lobster broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a large bowl. Discard the shells and seasonings.

Wipe out the Dutch oven and put it over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of butter. When the butter foams, add the shrimp and cook, turning, until pink. Remove and reserve in a bowl. Meanwhile, chop the lobster meat into smaller pieces, about 1/2 inch in size, and keep chilled.

Lobster meat

Again, wipe out the Dutch oven. Bring to medium heat and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Once the butter foams, add the onion, carrots, celery, 3 sprigs of thyme and lemon zest. Stir and cook until tender, 8-10 minutes, then pour in the white wine and sherry. Add the tomato paste. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove to a bowl, being sure to scrape up any cooked bits on the bottom of the pan.

Add the lobster broth, chicken broth, cream and rice to the Dutch oven. Cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the shrimp and the vegetable mixture. Working in batches, puree the mixture. Put the puree through a fine mesh sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible into a large bowl. Discard the solids.

Clean out the Dutch oven one more time and add the strained bisque. Stir in the cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the lobster meat and reheat gently. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Ladle the bisque into 6 shallow bowls and serve.

Bisque and lobster meat


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