The following version is exquisite: intense with lobster essence, creamy and light at the same time.
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onions
2 live 1 1/4 -pound lobsters
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cognac
2 cups white wine
2 cups water
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons roughly chopped tarragon
1 bay leaf
28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoons coarse salt
pinch of ground white pepper
1/3 cup long grain white rice
1 cup light cream
1 cup milk
chervil leaves or finely chopped tarragon leaves for garnish
1. Melt 1/2 stick butter over moderate heat in a large saucepan, and add carrots, celery, and onions. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. (Do not allow them to color.)
2. Cut lobsters in half lengthwise, and remove the sand sack, located behind the mouth. Separate into tail pieces, claws, and chest pieces. Add lobster sections to vegetables, and sauté over moderately high heat until shells turn red. Remove lobster pieces from the pan, and, when cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the tails and claws. Reserve meat.
3. Chop all the shells into smaller pieces and return to the pan. Add 1/4 cup cognac and ignite, gently tilting pan to flame all the shells. When flames subside, add wine, water, garlic, tarragon, and bay leaf. Stir to combine. Crush tomatoes with your hands and add to the pot along with the coarse salt and white pepper. Stir well and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. (Do not allow the liquid to boil.)
4. Pull out as many pieces of shell as possible and reserve. Put the rest of the soup through a food mill, or into a sieve, pushing down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return milled broth to pan, and add reserved lobster meat and the rice. Simmer over low heat for another 45 minutes, or until reduced to 2 cups.
5. Take reserved shells and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse processor for about 30 seconds, or until shells are finely chopped. Melt the remaining 1 stick butter in a medium saucepan and add chopped shells. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a fine sieve placed over a bowl. Push down on shells hard, forcing as much butter and liquid through the sieve as possible. Reserve butter and discard solids.
6. Remove reduced broth from heat. Purée in small batches in a blender and put through a fine sieve set over a mixing bowl. Use a ladle to push on solid matter, extracting as much liquid as possible. Return to pot, add lobster butter, and stir together well.
7. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon cognac to bisque, and heat gently for 5 to 7 minutes, or until alcohol is burned off. Add cream and milk and heat through. (Do not boil.) Serve immediately, garnished with chervil or tarragon.
In eighteenth-century France, a bisque was a game soup, thickened with a shellfish purée. As time passed, the word became increasingly associated with the shellfish purée, not with the game soup. Thus was lobster bisque born. It was one of the first ideas from classical French cuisine incorporated into the American tradition, and in the earlier part of this century lobster bisque was such a mainstay at country clubs and fancy restaurants that many came to think of it as American. To make a good one takes time and trouble; all of the precious lobster flavor must be extracted from the shells and meat. The above version is exquisite: intense with lobster essence, creamy and light at the same time. Serves 6