• Tommy Centola

Don't be afraid to tackle bisque

You open up your menu and you see a dish called bisque under the soups. What is a bisque you wonder? A bisque is a creamy, smooth soup made with seafood. The most famously known bisque is made with lobster. Since lobster is not abundant in the South, a substitute needs to be found.

The ever resourceful chefs of New Orleans and surrounding areas have incorporated local frustrations into their bisque. Today, I am featuring 3 shellfish from the Gulf and bayous of South Louisiana; crab, crawfish and oysters. Any one of these recipes will have everyone asking for more. Let’s get cooking!

Here is a New Orleans twist on Lobster Bisque. Lobster is not a local shellfish. Crabs are very abundant. I have fond memories of crabbing when I was younger. I did not have the kitchen expertise then to make this dish. Fortunately, I do now.

Crab Bisque

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon minced onion

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 ½ cups crabmeat, cleaned

2 teaspoons flour

2 cups crab or seafood stock

2 cups heavy cream

Pinch ground white pepper

Salt

Sherry (optional)

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add the onion and cook until golden. Add crabmeat and parsley; cook over low heat stirring consistently (about 4 minutes). Add flour, stir to blend and cook for three minutes. Stir in crab stock and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Keep pan partially covered. Add the cream and white pepper. Heat and add salt to taste. Serve warm. Allow each individual to add sherry if they wish.

Most bisques are cream based. In early Cajun country, they did not use cream often in cooking. Here is an example of Cajun cooking at its’ best.

Crawfish Bisque

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup flour

1 cup onions, diced

½ cup bell pepper, diced

½ cup celery, diced

2 ½ tablespoons garlic

¼ cup tomato sauce

3 quarts seafood stock room temperature

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

1 pound crawfish tails

1 cup green onions, diced

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

In a heavy 6 quart pot, heat oil over medium heat. Stir in flour, stirring constantly, until you get a dark roux. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Sauté until vegetables are soft and translucent. Add tomato sauce and stir. Add stock slowly, stirring well to incorporate with the roux. Add Creole seasoning and stir. Cover and reduce heat, simmering for 30 minutes. Stir in crawfish tails, green onions and parsley, cover, and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve warm.

Oysters in soups are found throughout the New Orleans restaurant scene. While they go by many names, they all contain Louisiana Gulf oysters. Always remember to add the oysters at the end so they don’t overcook.

Oyster Bisque

6 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup onions, minced

1/2 cup celery, minced

2 cups half-and-half

Creole seasoning

2 dozen oysters, shucked, drained and liquid reserved

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onions and celery; cook for two minutes. Stir in the half-and-half and oyster liquid. Season the mixture with Creole seasoning. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the oysters, garlic and parsley. Bring the liquid back up to a simmer; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the oysters curl. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and remove from heat. Serve warm.

Winter months are prime time for bisques. Just don’t restrict yourself to making them when there is a chill in the air. The flavorful bowls of seafood goodness will be welcomed on your table year-round. Good Cooking, Good Eating and Good Living!!!

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