This recipe is (more like was) from the Internet (Food.com®). It is shown as a five star recipe and the reviewers were full of compliments but also some complaints about the sherry overpowering the overall taste of the bisque. I made the bisque and made some improvements as I cooked it and now the recipe is superb. Actually, I made one hell of a lot of improvements and later added ingredient and processing suggestions and variations.
Most of the complaining reviewers simply didn’t realize that the perfect sherry for cooking is an extra dry sherry, sold in quality liquor stores, not the cooking sherry junk in supermarkets and not the stuff you drink that is too strong in flavor and made to be medium sweet or very sweet. The point is that you have to take reviewers comments with a grain of salt because you can’t know precisely what they used or what in fact they did during preparation. Similarly, the recipe, as presented, didn’t specify what type of sherry to use and that is unacceptable. All they indicated was cooking sherry. Ugh! But all’s well that ends well, and if you follow the recipe below your company will definitely rave about the bisque being wonderfully delicious.
After making this bisque per the recipe shown you may want to try one or more of the variations noted at the end of the recipe, which describe the use of shrimp and also a proper process of making and freezing partially prepared bisque for later use.
The recipe serves six people between one to one and one half cups each as an appetizer course or it can feed four people a generous bowl of about two cups of bisque as part of a soup and salad lunch or dinner entrée.
1 cup of minced sweet onion
1 cup of minced carrot
1, 14 oz. can of chicken broth
1, 8 oz. bottle of clam juice
5 tbsp. of flour
4 tbsp. of butter
1 cup of heavy cream
½ cup of whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup of extra dry sherry (or more, depending on your preference)
1 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. of Cayenne pepper
½ tsp. of Sea salt (this is too little, but guests can add more later)
1 lb. of raw lobster meat or canned lump crab meat
A pinch of paprika to add pink color
Fresh chives, finely diced, as a garnish
If you plan to serve the bisque very soon after preparation then put the individual serving cups, bowls or crocks into a 180ºF oven.
First, chop/dice the onion and carrot ingredients to make about 1 1/4 cups of each. Then put the diced vegetables into a small food processor with ¼ cup of water and mince at high speed. Stop and stir and then resume processing until the carrots are finely minced. Set the minced vegetables aside. (This was one of my improvements to the provided recipe as it saves a lot of labor.) Note also that one might cook the carrot(s) first to make it softer for easy processing.
Melt 4 tbsp. of butter in a heavy three quart saucepan, (like a French heavy copper saucepan with a tin interior coating used especially for cream dishes) on low heat and add the flour, whisking constantly to create a roux. Increase the heat to medium and whisk until the roux becomes a very pale brown or tan in color. This may take up to five minutes. Do not burn the roux. Adjust the heat as necessary (lower it) to avoid burning the roux. Note: I seldom cook the roux as long as most recipes suggest as it works just as well without risking burning it. It doesn’t have to be brown or tan in color. Simply use it when you first notice a color change. Also, if you intend to freeze the bisque for later use do not make the roux at all.
Slowly add the chicken broth and the clam juice to the roux, whisking constantly to create a smooth mixture.
Add the minced onions and carrot, mix well and simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes.
Add the cream (unless you plan to freeze the bisque for later use), milk or half-and-half, sherry, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, sea salt, paprika and lobster, diced, or crab. Mix and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not boil.
Remove about half of the bisque, shellfish included, to a blender and blend at high speed until totally pureed. Note: I learned the hard way that starting to blend hot soup produces steam pressure inside the blender that can blow the lid off and spray hot soup out, making a supreme mess of your kitchen. To avoid this you can start with a small volume of soup in the blender, like one cup, and gradually add the rest while blending. You might also let the product in the blender cool to about 160 degrees F and then start the blender on a very low speed, increasing the speed to high gradually. And do keep the vent cap on the lid open (or at least not sealed) to allow any steam pressure to escape without blowing off the blender lid.
Pour the pureed bisque from the blender into a two quart bowl. Then puree the other half of the bisque in the blender.
Put all of the puree back into the saucepan. Re-warm the bisque by simmering for one or two minutes on very low heat. Do not let the temperature exceed about 170 degrees F.
Serve warmed individual bowls of the bisque garnished with the diced chives floating on the top.
A crusty French baguette or a warm crusty roll with butter is a nice accompaniment. Simple buttered saltines are also nice. Add a small salad with a vinaigrette type of dressing (don't use a creamy dressing as that will compete with the bisque and thus be boring) and a nice chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio wine and you have a complete, balanced, delicious meal that will really please your guests. The idea is that a good chef creates a meal with contrasting and complementary foods in terms of tastes, textures and colors. Visualize the simple meal I just suggested in terms of shapes and colors, and then think about the different tastes and textures. Get it?
Variations: Shrimp can be substituted for the lobster or crab provided it is thoroughly cleaned, i.e., the dark vein is removed. The shrimp should also be diced prior to other processing.
If you want to make the bisque in advance and vacuum seal and freeze it for later use then do not make the roux at all and do not add the cream until it is needed, just prior to serving the bisque. Freezing soups or bisques containing cream can result in separation of the cream when the product is reheated. Also, roux used to thicken the bisque becomes useless upon reheating, resulting in a thin, runny soup. In other words, thaw the frozen, partially made bisque to room temperature, whisk in about 3 tbsp. of cornstarch and 4 tbsp. of melted butter, heat it while whisking to near boiling to thicken it and then let it cool to about 190 degrees F (use a thermometer). Then add room temperature heavy cream and mix gently but thoroughly using a whisk. Then serve the bisque in the pre-warmed cups, bowls or crocks.