Dungeness Crab Bisque

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For my birthday, we got two live Dungeness crabs. Trying not to be wasteful, I put the crab shells in the freezer with the plan on doing something with them. It took me about two months, but I finally found the time and inclination to actually use them. So, I decided on crab bisque.

I did, however, have a little bit of a problem finding a recipe for it. Most recipes seem to think you’ve got some live or at least uncooked crabs that you’re planning to make into soup. To me, this is more than a bit wasteful. Why use rather expensive uncooked crabs when you can instead use left-overs (plus that’s what I had). A lot of the recipes (including Julia Child’s) were really for lobster bisque with brief instructions on how to modify it for crab or shrimp. Which really isn’t that big of a deal but it’s easier for me if I’m making the intended recipe (particularly for something I’ve never made before).

In defense of the internet, a quick Google search did lead me to an appropriate recipe. And the recipe worked out pretty well. I did need to cook the stock for a bit longer than the recipe specified; it was pretty weak when I tasted it after the proscribed cooking time. I may have also added too much cayenne pepper (or at least that’s what she-who-must-be-obeyed said).

Now, I had never had crab bisque before so it’s hard to compare it’s quality. It tasted pretty good to me but it would probably work better as a first course than as a whole meal (of course we opted for it as a meal as I’m too lazy to make more than one labor intensive thing at a time). The consistency was also a little different as I opted not to strain it so there were chunks of rice and shallots and whatnot in it. It still was pretty tasty.

And, in my defense, the soup looked like that in real life. How do you go about making pictures of crab bisque look appetizing?

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Dungeness Crab Bisque
Adapted from Simply Recipes (in turn adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Soups and Stews)

2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup diced shallots
1/2 cup dry vermouth
4 cups crab stock
1/4 cup white rice
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup cooked crab meat, cleaned
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
salt
cayenne pepper

  1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the vermouth, crab stock, white rice, and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked. Remove from the heat.
  3. Add the crab meat to the soup. Working in batches, purée the soup to the desired consistency. Return the soup to the pot.
  4. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Cook until the soup has thickened slightly. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
  5. Serve in a bowls.

Serves 2 to 4.

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Crab Stock
Adapted from Simply Recipes (in turn adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Soups and Stews).

4-6 cups crab shells, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, cut into large chunks
1 celery stalk, cut into large chunks
a bouquet garni made up of several parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs, 12-15 peppercorns and 1 bay leaf
salt

  1. In a stock pot, place the crab shells and add water until it comes 1 inch above the top of the shells.
  2. Place the stock pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and maintain a slow simmer for 1 hour. Skim the surface of the stock to remove scum.
  3. After the stock stops to produce scum, add the vermouth, onion, carrot, celery, and boquet garni. Continue to simmer for 1 hour more.
  4. Drain the stock through a cheese-cloth lined strainer. Taste the stock for strength. If it’s not strong enough, boil the stock until it reaches the desired strength.
  5. Season the stock with salt to taste.

Makes 2-3 quarts of stock.

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