Wondering what to do with those leftover crustaceans? Make Creole Bisque!
By NICK PUGH
Jessica and I have a passionate love of crustaceans: crab, shrimp, lobster, crayfish, you name it! If you can steam it, boil it, grill it, fry it, stew it, we will eat it.
Early in our relationship, I introduced my wife to the wonders of the Creole Boil (oftentimes confused with the Cajon Boil).
A traditional Creole Boil includes depth of flavor often associated with other Creole staples such as étouffée, jambalaya, broiled oysters, gumbo d’herbs, and turtle soup.
Joined by the commonality of the Holy Trinity (a mix of onion, celery, and bell pepper) and highly seasoned, these dishes represent the limitless bounty of Louisiana and the beauty of its unique culture; a culture informed by Spain, France, Native Americans, and Afro-Caribbean communities.
In keeping with our families’ tendency to cook far too much food, Jessica and I have on more than one occasion found ourselves scratching our heads at evening’s end, a pot of shelled and unshelled crabs, shrimp, and crayfish staring us down and daring us to find a way to preserve or use all we can.
We have landed squarely on a favorite way of using our Creole Boil leftovers: Bisque.
Bisques have their origins in European culinary traditions. Bisque is a cream-like soup, rich in complex flavors and traditionally thickened with rice.
Bisque, like the best foods, requires time and dedication but is forgiving and simple to make.
We are certain you and your family will sigh as you plunge pieces of crusty baguette into your bisque, washing down the pale rose-colored soup with a bright, crisp Pinot Grigio.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
HOW TO MAKE CREOLE BISQUE
Following your Creole Boil, have your guests and friends help pick all the remaining tail meat from the crayfish, peel any shrimp, and crack and remove the meat from any un-cracked crab.
Combine the meat and store in the fridge. Do not throw away the shells.
To the contrary, add the shells to a large stockpot together with two bay leaves, two roughly chopped onions, 6 roughly chopped ribs of celery, and two roughly chopped bell peppers.
Add enough water to cover the shells with at least 2-3 inches of water.
Put the stockpot over medium low heat, cover, and simmer for 6-8 hours (I often do this overnight and am greeted with the hypnotic aromas in the morning).
To prepare the bisque, you will need a good, heavy-bottom soup-pot of at least 8 quarts.
Heat the pot over medium heat. Add to the pot a tablespoon of olive oil and a table spoon of butter.
To this add one medium onion, diced, three ribs celery, diced, one bell pepper, diced, one carrot, diced, and three cloves of garlic, crushed.
Sauté the vegetables until soft, stirring occasionally. To the sautéed vegetables, add ¼ cup each fresh thyme, tarragon, and parsley, rough chopped. Continue to sauté.
Add to the mixture ½ small can of tomato paste. Continue to stir and sauté the ingredients. To the mixture, add cognac, ½ cup or so to taste.
Here is where all your preparation of the shells the previous night pays off. Begin ladling the broth from your stockpot into your soup-pot.
Strain each ladle with a fine mesh strainer, such as a chinois or through a traditional strainer lined with cheesecloth.
Continue to ladle stock into the soup until you’ve enough stock for 5-6 quarts of bisque. Allow the bisque to come to a simmer.
To your simmering bisque, add 1-2 cups long grained rice. Allow the bisque and rice to cook together for 45 minutes to an hour. The starch from the rice will begin to thicken the bisque.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When you are ready to eat, heat the shrimp, crab, and crayfish tails in a large sauté pan with butter.
While the meat is warming, use a stick blender to emulsify the bisque, rice and all.
The bisque should have a consistency similar to chowder, but completely smooth. If your bisque is too thin, you can continue to simmer until the desired consistency is reached.
Ladle your bisque into warmed soup bowls or soup plates and evenly distribute the warmed shrimp, crab, and crayfish into each bowl.
Garnish with chopped parsley and sever with a crusty baguette or large French loaf.
This recipe serves 6-8 Texans or 2-3 Creoles.