Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recipes: Lobster Bisque

What fun would a blog about food & dining be without documented attempts at various Disney recipes? For my first try at Disney grub, I chose the lobster bisque which can be found at quite a few Walt Disney World property restaurants. This is Johns' favorite soup so I decide to have it be my maiden attempt at a WDW dish, for my blog.

So I did some searching around the Internets and not surprisingly, found what looked like a promising recipe on the Disboards. The DISer who posted this recipe states they contacted Chefs de France in Epcot and they got back to them with this recipe. Now this is important-chefs (in general not just the Chefs de France folks) are notoriously secretive of their recipes. Many times you will ask a chef for a recipe and an old trick is to smile and give the person asking a slightly different version of the actually recipe. Why? Job security, ego, didn't learn ALL they needed to learn in kindergarten-you name it. So sometimes you have to try the recipe and if something doesn't make sense, play with it until you get it right. That's what I had to do with this recipe. Also I had to make some common sense substitutions for items I didn't have. So let's start with the recipe.

This is the recipe and instructions that were posted:

Lobster Bisque
Les Chefs de France

14 oz. raw lobster in the shell
1/3 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
¼ clove of garlic, crushed
4 cups fish stock
4 whole black peppercorns
2 ½ cups water
1/3 cup flour
1 ¾ cups tomato puree
2 tbsp cognac
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp each: chervil & tarragon

Melt half the butter in a pan, add the onions and cook until softened, when done add the garlic and shallots, cook briefly. Add the lobster, fish stock, peppercorns and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lobster from the stock, cool & take the meat from the shells & set aside. Crush the shells and return to the pan and continue to simmer for 40 minutes. Strain the stock through a sieve.

In a blender, puree the lobster with some of the stock. Mix the flour and remaining butter to make a paste. Add paste, tomato puree, cognac, cream, and mix well, salt & pepper to taste. Add the tarragon and chervil cook, stirring continuously over high heat until the soup thickens. Reduce and simmer gently for 5 minutes.


So let's start with substitutions I had to make. I had a few. First off, I didn't have fish stock and wasn't about to make it. I could have run out to the grocery store, but didn't feel like it, so I improvised. I did have fish sauce & vegetable base. Base is like bullion cubes, just wet. To make 8oz of vegetable stock from the base it called for 1 tsp of base. I needed 4 cups of fish stock so I used 3 tsp of base and 3 tbsp of fish sauce. The reason being-bases & fish sauce are both wicked salty. You can cut back on the fish sauce if you prefer.

I also didn't have shallots. This one I have to say was sorta big. I substituted in cipollini onions, but would have really preferred shallots. While shallots are in the onion family, they have a far more refined flavor. Milder, sweeter and all around better. But I had the cipollinis, which are sweeter in flavor, if not a bit less refined.

The recipe called for cognac-I substituted in brandy, which I prefer anyway.

I had leftover cooked lobster from the day before (fancy huh?) and although the recipe called for uncooked lobster, I found that using the cooked shells worked just fine. I did however take the meat out of the tail & claws and put it aside. I didn't want to over cook the meat and have it get rubbery. But there was plenty of meat in the legs that went into the pot

The last thing I had to make substitutions for was chervil & fresh tarragon. Since they are often substituted for each other I just used dried tarragon and made a note to myself to get some tarragon & chervil for my herb garden.

Let's begin:

First thing I did was to collect & chop all my ingredients all professional like. To be honest, normally it's more of an on-the-fly style of cooking at my house. But here is everything all nice and portioned out.

Step 1: Saute the onions in 1/2 of the butter until soft. Then add the shallots (cipollini) & garlic and saute a bit more.

Step 2: Add the fish stock, peppercorns & water.

Step 3: Add the lobster. If you are adding an uncooked lobster you would add it whole, or if you already butchered the lobster, would add the sectioned pieces. I was using pre-cooked lobster, so I simply added the broken shells, and legs with meat still in them. Reduce heat & let simmer for about 40 minutes. As you can see, I changed/eliminated steps by using cooked lobster. Keep your heat low & keep an eye on your stock.

Step 5: Strain the stock through a sieve and retain the liquid, discard the shells and any other solids.

Step 7: In a blender, puree SOME of the stock and the lobster meat (VERY important to only use a small amount of the stock or it will go all over the place. And use care anytime you put hot liquids in a blender or food processor!!). Again, here I only used half the meat and reserved the other half for he soup.

Step 7: Using the remaining butter & flour, make a paste.

 Step 8: Add paste, tomato puree, cream & cognac and mix well. The recipe was a bit vague here, and so I would like to give anyone attempting this a heads up. It would yield better results if you blended this mixture either in a blender/ food processor or used a stick mixer in the pot. If you don't you might find yourself working hard to not make dumplings from that butter/flour mixture.

As you can see I added each separately and found myself working hard to get rid of those dumplings ;) But I was successful!

Step 9: Return to stove and heat on high until the soup thickens. I then ended the remaining lobster meat & tarragon at the very end.

Before adding more cream
 Now at this point the recipe should be completed. When we tasted it, while very good, it wasn't right. As I stated in the beginning, recipes are often modified before they are given out-it became very apparent this was the case here. The original recipe called for only 1/2 cup of heavy cream. This is not enough to produce that creamy bisque-like texture, silkiness and delicate flavor. I recommend using at a minimum of 1 cup of cream and being open to increasing the cream to 1 1/2 cups. I know there's the whole health conscious thing, but it's bisque-not exactly known for it's great health rating lol.I recommend adding a 1/4 cup or cream at a time until you get the taste you like
After adding cream


Even with the substitutions & changes I made to the original recipe, it came out quite well. Both John & I agreed it was very much like the lobster bisque we have had at Chefs de France. The flavor was complex and full. Texturally, the bisque was silky and creamy and the delicious chunks of tender, sweet lobster meat provided a nice addition. While some bisque purists might not like the chunks of lobster, I really think it adds some personality to the dish. If you prefer a smooth texture, puree all the lobster. The most difficult part of this recipe was removing the lobster from the shells. Otherwise, it was a very simple recipe to execute and the results make it definitely worth trying at home. I do have one complaint though.......

I need a clean up crew. Any takers? In any case-Happy cooking!

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