I love cooking garbage. That isn’t what it sounds like, but it’s my favorite way to put it. What I really mean is that I love making the most of my ingredients. It means I’m a saver of bones and peels and miscellaneous scraps that others might discard. Chicken bones, lamb bones, squash seeds and pulp… My freezer is full of them.
All of this detritus has a second life as soup, most often as a stock to use as the base for a pot of soup. (Or does that pot of soup count as its third life?) When we eat lobster, as we did for Valentine’s Day, if I’m feeling enthusiastic, I save the shells and innards to transform into a pot of lobster bisque.
The tail, claw, and knuckle meat has already been eaten, but the walking legs and the body can be picked for little chunks of meat to garnish the bowl. The only other preparation I do is to remove and discard the spongy gills inside the lobster body. Then, all the shells, any coral or roe (from the females), and the tomalley (that green gunk) are ready to do its magic.
You sauté some vegetables and herbs in butter, add the shells, tomatoes, wine, and water, and simmer. Once the shells are removed from the pot, the remainder is passed through a food mill for a smooth puree. Cream and sherry turn the soup into a lovely bisque.
I can’t think of a better way to extract every last bit of flavor from a lobster. After enjoying the prized meat, this soup makes the lobster last a little bit longer.
The lobster base keeps in the freezer. Just wait to add the cream and sherry until you are reheating to serve.
Makes about 2 quarts
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried)
Shells from 2-4 cooked lobsters (or more)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
6 cups water (could use strained lobster cooking liquid if available)
1 cup heavy cream
¼ to ½ cup dry sherry (start with the smaller amount and increase if you want more sherry flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Sort through the shells, picking out any extra meat (especially from the bodies and legs, especially if you only ate the claws and tail). Include the tomalley and, if female, the coral). Discard the gills attached to the body. Reserve any meat picked to finish the soup.
Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, carrot, bay leaf, and thyme, and cook until onions are soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the lobster bodies and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and tomatoes and turn heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to low, cover, and cook for 10 more minutes. Add the water, turn the heat back to high, and bring back to a boil. Reduce to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf, thyme sprigs, and lobster shells and discard. Puree what remains in the pot through the food mill using the disk with smallest holes.
(You could cool and then freeze it at this point.)
When ready to serve, bring to a boil, then add the cream, sherry, and any lobster meat and heat through.