My Mother grew up on Naushon, a small island off of Cape Cod where her father was the local captain of the ferry to the mainland. The Alberts Family didn’t have much money, but they were rich in many other ways, had a strong commitment to each other, and a sort of ‘salt of the earth’ quality that one discovers as they slowly let you in. Life on the island was a far cry from childhood today with its text messages and 8 year olds with cell phones. It was a simpler time where imaginary play was Queen, the footpaths and pickup football games King, and the rest of life simply something waiting to be discovered.
Lobster was a regular (and affordable) occurrence on Naushon and was met with groans and grumbles from the kids. The fact that my mom and her five siblings would say, “Ugh…lobster AGAIN?!?” is something I’ve never been quite able to understand.
40 years later lobster has again become the delicacy for my Mother that it always has been for me. The tough red shell guarding the buttery and tender meat inside feels like the perfect combination of hard work and reward.
Home for the weekend in Ipswich, MA between client meetings in NYC and Boston, my mother and I decided to make a lobster bisque as a treat and celebration of this year’s holiday season.
Serve generous bowls with nothing more than warmed crusty bread and cold salted butter.
Pairs best with a slightly sweeter wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.
6 bowl servings
3 lobsters, about 1 lb each (because you will be boiling them and cutting up the meat you can get the less expensive culls or soft shell lobsters)
4 TB Butter
½ cup flour
3 TB olive oil
1 large diced yellow onion
2 large diced celery stalks
1 large diced carrot
3 chopped garlic cloves
1/3 cup tomato paste
2/3 cup sherry
4 cups fish stock or poultry stock
2 TB chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
¾ cup whipping cream
To prepare lobster
1. Fill a large pot with 6 inches of water. Bring to a boil, apologize to the lobsters, and drop them in the boiling water. (I should confess that I usually try and pawn this task of on whatever male is closet and most eager to prove his masculinity). Cook for 10 minutes or until you can smell the lobsters. Remove lobsters and place in a large bowl to cool. Reserve 2 cups of lobster cooking liquid and set aside. Shell lobsters over the bowl to catch liquid. Set aside meat and shells.
To make soup base:
1. Melt butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook until it turns light brown. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot. When oil is rippling, add lobster shells and bodies. Sauté 5-7 minutes or until shells begin to brown. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and tomato paste. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent burning. Stir in sherry, lobster liquid, fish stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour.
3. Strain through a sieve into a large saucepan, pressing on solids. Discard shells. Return liquid to stove over medium heat and reduce to 4 cups. Whisking constantly, add the browned butter and flour mixture ¼ cup at a time into the lobster until it thickens. Lower heat. Stir in cream and add chopped lobster meat, setting aside a cup of chopped meat for garnish. Simmer 3-5 minutes, but do not allow to boil.
Serve hot in warmed bowls topped with evenly divided lobster meat.
Adapted from Flavors of the Season by Chrissi Pappas