A Fancy Name for Simple Soup

Say you have some shells and bones left over after processing your catch and selling the meat to the local swells, what is a poor fisherman to do?

Why, create an inexpensive soup that will eventually be one of the pricier broths to end up on any menu all over the world.

There are lots of origin stories for this rich, luxurious soup but we’ll stick with the most simple. Bisque at its core is a very basic, cheaply made, fisherman’s lunch. Like a lot of very fancy foods, bisque started as a way to wring all of the flavour and goodness out of leftovers.

One line of thinking posits that the name “bisque” is from the French, meaning twice cooked, and that seems to make the most sense. Take the shells of fish after the meat has been removed, roast them with some vegetables (cook once) and then make a broth out of that (cook twice).

Nowadays, the meat is often added back to the soup once it’s ready to be served.

It is also often thickened with cream but at the basic, a recipe calls for thickening with rice, what could be more affordable?

But as one wag said: a restaurant will sell more celery bisque than celery soup. And up the price accordingly.

That’s the other new development: Bisque was traditionally a label preserved for a shellfish broth but now any soup can be made more attractive by calling it bisque.

We’ve made a fairly traditional recipe, one that will definitely wow dinner guests with its alluring aroma and amazing flavours.

Lobster Bisque

Serves 8


4 (1 1/4–pound) lobsters, cooked

2 Tbsp butter

1/3 cup olive oil

2 medium carrots,diced

2 medium yellow onions, diced

4 large celery ribs, diced

Kosher salt to taste

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1/4 cup brandy

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups clam juice

9-10 cups water

3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, plus minced leaves and tender stems for garnish

3 sprigs tarragon, plus minced leaves for garnish

1 bay leaf

1 cup cooked white rice

1 cup whipping cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground white or black pepper

Fresh lemon juice to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste

2 Tbsp fresh chives chopped and 12 whole chives for garnish

Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty


Photo credit: Laura Weatherbie/Salty



  1. Using a chef’s knife and lobster pick, remove meat from lobster and roughly chop.
  2. Rinse the shells and remove the head sack area. Make sure to retain tomalley and any   meat.
  3. Put a roasting pan on stove top med high heat and add butter and olive oil.
  4. When the butter and oil is frothy, add the vegetables and sauté for 3 or 4 min, add a couple of pinches of kosher salt.
  5. Add tomato paste, garlic and lobster shells and stir together until shells are well mixed with the vegetables and tomato paste.
  6. Place roasting pan with lobster shells and vegetable mixture in a preheated 350℉ oven. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring several times.
  7. Remove from oven and put the shell/veg mixture in a stock pot. With a slotted spoon, remove two cups of vegetables and set aside.
  8. Deglaze the roasting pan on medium heat on the stovetop by adding wine and brandy, scraping up any bits stuck in the roaster with a wooden spoon. Add a cup of water to roaster, swish around then add deglazed contents of roasting pan to the shells in the stock pot.
  9. Add clam juice and enough water (approximately 9-10 cups) to just cover the shells. Add parsley, tarragon and bay leaf, bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour.
  10. Strain lobster stock through a fine strainer pushing on solids to extract as much liquids as possible.
  11. Working in batches in a blender, blend stock, two cups of vegetables picked from the stock and 1 cup cooked white rice until very smooth.
  12.  Strain contents of blender into a saucepan, bring to a simmer on medium heat. Add cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, lemon juice and tabasco.
  13. In a sauté pan on medium heat, melt butter, add lobster and chopped fresh chives. Sauté until lobster is just warmed (2-3 mins maximum).
  14. To serve, ladle bisque into serving bowls. Spoon lobster meat into center of soup and garnish with whole chives.



About Stephen Hunter

Stephen Hunter teaches the à la carte practical program at The Culinary Institute of Canada at Holland College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He's also the Chef Instructor for evening dining at the Lucy Maud Dining Room.

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