Have had lot of wonderful things to eat this week. One of the most exciting aspects of this diet change is trying new things that I wouldn't have otherwise. This week I tried lemon hummus for the first time, with falafel chips. And I made a wonderful shrimp and baby spinach salad with bean sprouts that I had never made before. Both kids (my daughter is a lot harder to please than my son) enjoyed nachos I made with refried beans, which I served on a bed of greens with a dollop of chipolte ranch dressing. While in the grocery store the other day, I grabbed a container of lobster bisque, a long time favorite of mine, that looked really good. Thought it would make a great quick supper if I grabbed a fresh artisan bread for dipping, and made a salad. At the last minute I scanned the list of ingredients for it and was stunned to see that the #1 ingredient was chicken stock. So I put it back and came home to study bisque recipes instead. I am not giving up bisque! For your dining pleasure I will share what I have determined to be the winner of the meat-free bisque recipes. There weren't many, almost all use chicken stock. It is by chef Tyler Florence who has a unique, and I think brilliant, way of replacing chicken flavor - cognac! A bisque is supposed to be an econmical way of enjoying lobster flavor with little lobster meat to work with so don't worry if you don't have as much as he likes to use. Never be afraid to experiment with recipes...
2 lobsters, separated, all meat and juices reserved
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks, halved lengthwise
2 onions, halved
2 stalks celery, in big chunks
2 carrots, in big chunks
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 strips orange zest
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup cognac
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated orange zest, for garnish
Finely chopped chives, for garnish
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and melt 3 tablespoons butter in it. Add the chopped lobster bodies and heads and their juices, the leeks, 1 onion, celery, carrots, 1/2 the thyme, 1/2 the orange zest and the tomato paste. Cook until the shells are red and the vegetables are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour in 1/4 cup cognac. Ignite the cognac with a long kitchen match and let the alcohol burn off. Return to the heat, sprinkle in the flour, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add water to cover and stir up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Immediately decrease the heat and gently simmer until the soup is reduced and thickened, about 30 to 45 minutes. Strain this into a clean pot and season with salt and pepper if needed; keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add remaining onion, thyme, bay leaf, and orange zest along with the peppercorns and let this mixture cook for about 5 minutes. Add the lobster claws and tails; toss to coat with the fat and flavors. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the remaining 1/4 cup cognac. Ignite the cognac with a long kitchen match and let the alcohol burn off. Put the pan into the oven and roast until the lobster pieces are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the lobster pieces and set aside. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the lobster meat from the claws and tails. Chop the meat roughly and add it to the strained bisque.
To serve, ladle the bisque into warmed soup bowls. Serve with Grilled Brie and Tomato on crusty french bread, if desired.