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Dec 27, 2007 06:13 PM

Shrimp or Lobster Bisque

I make great soups, but haven't been able to master shrimp or lobster bisques. I find it hard to create something that is lobster-y enough. The brandy tends to mask the flavor -- maybe I'm using too much -- and I haven't succeeded in creating a bisque with the kind of rich, smooth, almost sensuous texture I'm looking for.

Any hints?

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  1. Do you add the lobster or shrimp shells to the stock?
    Assume you use heavy cream and lots of it?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Densible

      If so, have you tried reducing the stock to concentrate the flavour??


    2. Sauteeing the shells in a little oil at high temp then adding the brandy, and flaming it off gives an intensity to the base that just cooking the shells in water doesn't come near to.I use quite a bit of cognac, but it doesn't tast of the brandy, just a richness that isn't easy to define. it also intensifies the lobster flavor. if you don't have enough lobster shells, you can augment with shrimp shells without much dropoff in taste

      14 Replies
      1. re: chazzerking

        doess your conac have cinanmom and vanila flavour? i found the bsique that was w/o a good amount brandy or sherry wine into that very un-sweet and a bit bitter.
        but after i read this OP, i am starting to re-consider whether i add too much brandy into it so masking natural taste of lobster flavour .

        1. re: hae young

          you shouldn't be using flavored cognacs. there is no cinnamon or vanilla in bisque. it's soup, not eggnog. besides reducing the stock, you also need to reduce the cream. i only add the sherry at the very end, and only to taste. add a bit, let it simmer, taste. i prefer sherry in bisques, it has a softer nutty quality that brandy does not.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            isnt there already brandy in in sherry wine? once
            i tasted dry sherry wine and pour it into the bisque before adding cream. although i cannot diffrentiate those two subtlety, they seemed very simmilar for me.
            and in some other's recipe of bisque i have read until, there was incorporation of sherry wine or brandy into the lobster stock much earlier than finish ( at the very end) you mentioned.

            1. re: hae young

              and one more question is that even though my description of flavour of brandy types of alcohl is wrong such as cinnammon and vanilla as i said, doesnt it still have high sugary sweetness? dont you think so?

              1. re: hae young

                brandy is hard alcohol, fermented to about 80 proof from mostly neutral flavored grapes, like ugni blanc. sherry is wine, only made in jerez, spain, from grapes specific to sherry (palomino, etc.) and fermented only to about 12-18%. brandy is added to fortify sherry and keep it shelf stable.

                my apologies if i misunderstood you. i thought you were using brandy with added flavorings, not that you could get a whiff of vanilla on the nose from the brandy.

                the bisque is supposed to very mild in flavor. with the natural briny sweetness of the shellfish, the sweetness of the cream. it's at once a rich yet delicate dish, with a very generous mouthfeel.

                alcohol is added only to "round it out". it shouldn't be an obvious part of the flavor profile of the finished dish.

                i'm wondering if perhaps you do not normally consume alcohol as a beverage? if that's the case, perhaps make your bisque without.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  hey! hotoynoodle.
                  most recipes of lobster bisque seem to suggest adding brandy in and evaporate all the alchole of it and its liquid in earli stage of making the stock that is before adding any preserved cooking liquid of lobster or heavy cream. so i guess the brandy or wine becomes like some sort of syrupy cosistency after that process.
                  in my case, i add two cups of dry withe wine in earlier stage just after sauteing or baking the lobster shells with cooking liquids of lobster which i preserved from steaming or lightly boiling it. i also do not evaporate dry wihte wine earlier by high heat. i just pour the 2 cups of wine in with the cooking liquid unlike those of many recips.
                  so my final lobster stock was made of lobster shells, veggis, canned tomato, tomato paste, and 2 cups of dry withe wine but not brandy or sherry wine yet.
                  i freezed the stock and re-melted it later when having any plan to make lobster bisque.
                  after i boiled the stock enough, i pour good amount of brandy or sherry wine.
                  so i evaporate probably "all" the alchole in the stock and redue it much in voulme and pour heavy cream into that.
                  it seems some others add littel brandy or cognac at the end , i mean just before serving his or her bisque.
                  so when it comes to the matter of timing of adding right ingredients i tend to think that it wasnt really a matter if ingredients is anyway the same.
                  does it really matter when it comes to taste, i guess even thogh the diffrence might be there but would be not much.
                  what do you think?

                  1. re: hae young

                    There shouldn't be any wine at all in your bisque.

                    If you're going to evaporate the brandy, you do that in the pan BEFORE adding the stock. The sherry you can add at the end, but just a small dash. But one or the other, not both.

                    1. re: coll

                      because it becomes diffrent taste if i add brandy at its liquid form and not seperately form shells before i evaporating it totally?

                      1. re: hae young

                        Yes, brandy is way too strong, if you cook it down it might be OK. I wouldn't use it at all myself. Sherry is nice, but just a tiny bit, and no wine at all definitely. You want to taste the seafood, and not the alcohol.

                        1. re: coll

                          but if i boil long enough the alchole in the stock, isnt the result same or simmilar?
                          when you said brandy is too strong, did you mean the alchole of brandy is too strong or sugary sweetness in brandy is too strong? or both ?could you clarify?

                          1. re: hae young

                            No you will never get rid of the brandy completely once it's in the stock. You have to cook it first by itself, and hopefully set it on fire (flambe) so all the alchohol disappears. To me brandy has a strong heavy flavor, while sherry is light and sweet. I use sherry a lot in cooking, but brandy I save for eggnog.

                            1. re: coll

                              hey! coll.
                              how about this.
                              i have frozen 1 quart of lobster stock in freezer.
                              and this time i only have spain made brandy. actually i am hesitataing whether i should add it or not.
                              but if have to add then, i think i should pour little amount of brandy in my pot and then evaporating its liquid completely and seperately w/o making any flame because i live in a apartment.i once tried it with cognac. i felt a little danger and embarasment. then i think should add the little amount of syrupy brandy into the re-boiled stock.

                              1. re: hae young

                                i would not use brandy in bisque. if you insist, i would not reduce it to syrup. 1 quart of stock is a very small amount, if you're adding any alcohol, do so in tiny increments. like spoonsful, not by the cup.

                            2. re: hae young

                              brandy is strong in alcohol and strong in flavor. it's not something i would use in bisque, and i certainly would not waste money putting cognac in there. most definitely there should not be wine and brandy in your bisque. no wine in bisque at all. i don't worry so much about evaporating the alcohol, but spirits all have different flavors. they're not interchangeable, and bisque isn't a boozy tasting dish.

                              i don't know what recipe you are using, but it's a dish of very few and simple ingredients. roasted shells, water or stock, some tomato products and aromatics, like carrots, thyme, leek, a few bay leaves. cook that. strain. add cream. cook and reduce. that's when i now add the sherry, salt and pepper. taste and add til it i like it. that's it.

          2. Whenever you cook shrimp, crab, or lobster save the shells and simmer them, then drain and reduce enough to freeze. Reuse that for the next tme you cook. Repeat. Fairly soon you'll have a strong broth with which to make a deep flavored bisque.

            1. I have learned over the years that there are some (many, actually) things that I make as good or better than a lot of the restaurants I frequent. (of course, that doesn't keep me away). But my one or two endeavors with seafood bisques have been hell. SOOO many steps, SOOO much time. I have thrown in the towel in favor of a comfortable table and a really great Lobster Bisque brought to me.

              Anyway have a good quicke for this?

              1. Shrimp Bisque: In saucepan put 2 cups water, bring to boil, dump in 1 pound raw shrimp in shell, bring to boil, remove from burner, let sit covered for two hours. Remove shrimp. Save stock. Shell shrimp. Put through Cuisinart to grind coarsely. Make the bisque using 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup flour, the shrimp water, and 2 cups milk and/or half-and-half, and the ground shrimp. Thin if necessary to get the consistency you want. Flavor to taste using salt and sherry. Color a faint pink using paprika or a glug of ketchup. Freezes well. I make this a lot. We like it. If I'm doing it wrong, don't tell me.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Querencia

                  I will probably give this a try. The recipe I had called for you to actually grind the shrimp shells, then cook them, then try to strain what you ended up with. Way too much work. This sounds fairly straightforward. I assume you make a light roux out of the flour.butter before you add the liquids? I would think it would be good to add a few small cut up shrimp to the finished product as well.

                  1. re: bnemes3343

                    I think you're not really supposed to add the meat to these bisques. Although some restaurants will drop a few tidbits on top.

                    1. re: coll

                      Yes, I was thinking more of a few tidbits at the end.

                      1. re: coll

                        I don't care if you're supposed to or not. I would never leave the meat out of mine!

                    2. re: Querencia

                      I saw Barefoot Contessa this week make Shrimp Bisque using a very similar method. Looked good to me.

                      1. re: Densible

                        I have made it, it is good:

                        If the concern is "not shrimpy enough" you definitely want to cook the shells in the stock.