Rich and creamy perfectly describes this elegant seafood bisque. A touch of brandy or dry sherry adds complexity, but the real star of the stock is dungy crab shells that infuse sweetness and depth of flavor. This bisque works well with any white fish, fresh salmon, and/or shrimp.
- For the Stock:
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- Shells from 2 Dungeness crab clusters (about 3 cups)
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 1/4 cup brandy or sherry
- 1 sprig each fresh tarragon and thyme
- For the Bisque:
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 pound smoked salmon
- 1 halibut fillet (about 12 oz)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Tarragon leaves for garnish
Make the stock
Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the crab shells and cook, stirring and pressing until lightly browned, 5–7 minutes. Stir in the onion, tomato paste, bay leaf, and peppercorns, and cook until onion is barely softened, 2–3 minutes. Add brandy and cook until evaporated. Add 6 c water (see note*) and the tarragon and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, 40–50 minutes. Strain the stock, pressing hard on the solids. Rinse out pot.
Make the bisque
Return the stock to the pot and if necessary, simmer until reduced to 3 c. In a small cup, combine cream and cornstarch until smooth. Stir into broth and simmer just until thickened. Break smoked salmon into large flakes and cut halibut into 1/2-inch pieces. Add 3/4 of the salmon to the pot, reserving the rest for garnish. Add the halibut and cook just until done, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and ladle into bowls. Garnish with the remaining smoked salmon and tarragon and serve.
*Note: Add any reserved crab steaming liquid. You can freeze the stock for up to 1 month.
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Pair it Up
Balance the richness of the creamy bisque with a sparkling white or rosé wine — a rosé of pinot noir if you can find it. The light acidity and bubbles contrast the smooth soup.
Know Your Cook
Culinary Director Grace Parisi is a cook, writer and cookbook author. Formerly the Senior Test Kitchen Editor at Food & Wine Magazine and Executive Food Director at TimeInc Books, her work has appeared in Cooking Light, Health, O Magazine, Epicurious, Fitness, Today, Serious Eats, Martha Stewart, and many more. She’s the author of more than 6 books, among them The Portlandia Cookbook and Get Saucy, which was nominated for a James Beard award for Best Single Subject Cookbook.