This recipe for crab bisque is more of a weekend activity than a quick weekday dinner. As anyone who buys crab can tell you, they can be pretty annoying – especially when small. However if you are trying to make a recipe to impress someone, you can’t go wrong with a rich and delicious crab bisque soup.
A traditional bisque actually includes the ground up shells as a key ingredient. While my recipe does not do this (I don’t have a mortar and pestle) it would be very easy to make it this way. I will show exactly where later in the recipe.
For this crab bisque recipe I am using European Green Crabs. These are small, and annoying to pick, but are a plentiful invasive species so I was able to get them for about $1.50 a pound live. It is important to get live crabs as dead ones may not be healthy and should not be eaten.
Making Crab Bisque With Green Crabs
There are so many different ways to make a seafood bisque. My list of ingredients will look wildly different to another cooks’. But at the end of the day all that matters is if it tastes good. As such, feel free to leave out or change some of these ingredients if you don’t like them.
If you do not want to use Green Crabs, or just prefer the convenience of using snow crabs, dungeness, or king, then absolutely just use that. They also have the benefit of being much easier to pick clean.
Green Crab Bisque Ingredients
The ingredients in a bisque can vary greatly depending on region, and how much you want to stick to French authenticity.
2 lbs (around one kilo) Green Crabs – You can use any crab you want, the larger the crab the more meat there is.
1 cup Rice – rice is the traditional thickener in a seafood bisque. It gets blended in at the end for a rich, velvety mouthfeel.
4 Shallots – If needed you can substitute one yellow onion
4 cloves Garlic – minced
2 tbsp Green Onion – chopped
2 tbsp Taragon – chopped
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Tomato Paste
2 Bay Leaves
1 tbsp Salt – or adjust more to taste
2 tsp Black Pepper – freshly cracked
2 tbsp Heavy Cream – optional
100 grams Puff Pastry
1 Egg – for the egg wash
1 pinch Black Sesame Seeds
Making Crab Bisque
Fill a large pot about halfway to three-fourths with water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Once the water boils add in the crabs. They will take around 5 minutes to cook. If you use a larger crab expect that it will take a little longer.
Once the crabs are red and boiled pull them out. Do not pour out the water, but do skim off the foam and any other detritus floating on the water. Now it is time to pick the crab meat out of the shells.
I personally love the brown meat and the crab mustard (soft yellow paste inside the crab body), but I know most Americans do not eat this. Although when you are working with tiny crabs such as these, you don’t really have a choice unless you don’t want much meat in the final bisque.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add the rice, shallot, garlic, green onion, taragon, bay leaves, and black pepper. Also set up another pot with about a liter of water and bring to a boil. This is to extract more crab flavor from the already picked shells.
It takes me about an hour to pick clean two pounds of green crabs. As soon as I finish a crab I toss the carapace into the second pot of boiling water. By the time I am done the crab broth is more concentrated. Strain the liquid from the shells and add back to the original pot. You should end up with about 3-4 liters of soup in total.
Add the liquid, including all the vegetables and rice, to a blender along with the tomato paste and mustard. Chances are you will have to do it in batches. In this case I add the tomato paste and mustard in the first batch and then whisk in the next few batches. If you want to include the shells for authenticity, and your blender is strong enough, you can blend the shells as well.
The final crab bisque should be a muted orange color. You absolutely have to taste for seasonings at this point and adjust. Add more salt and black pepper if needed, or even some garlic powder for a more garlicky soup. As you can see in the photograph above, the soup and picked crab meat are the two main components of this dish.
Seafood bisque is usually served in a two handled small pot. I plate this crab bisque by adding a tablespoon of crab meat in the bottom, then ladling over the bisque. Finally I finish with another tablespoon of crab meat on top for presentation.
You can garnish this bisque with a variety of things. For mine I use some chopped dill and black sesame seeds. You can use things like herbed olive oil, oyster crackers, or even some sliced chili peppers for a bit of heat. I also like to serve crab bisque with some sliced baguette in the traditional French way.
Bisque With Puff Pastry Top
A popular addition to seafood bisques is a puff pastry top. This is super easy to do, but really brings more wow factor to the dish – guaranteed to impress guests. Simple press a sheet of puff pastry over the pot and squeeze it a bit against the sides. Brush with an egg wash and sprinkle with some salt and sesame seeds.
Place the bisque in an oven preheated to 200C and bake for 15 minutes, or whatever the recommendations are on your package of puff pastry. I suggest placing the pot on a pan or tray as sometimes the bisque can bubble over. The pan can catch any drippings.
- 2 Pots
- 1 Knife
- 1 Cutting Board
- 2 lbs Green Crabs around one kilo – You can use any crab you want, the larger the crab the more meat there is.
- 1 cup Rice rice is the traditional thickener in a seafood bisque. It gets blended in at the end for a rich velvety mouthfeel.
- 4 Shallots If needed you can substitute one yellow onion
- 4 cloves Garlic minced
- 2 tbsp Green Onion chopped
- 2 tbsp Taragon chopped
- 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 tbsp Salt or adjust more to taste
- 2 tsp Black Pepper freshly cracked
- 2 tbsp Heavy Cream optional
- 100 grams Puff Pastry
- 1 Egg for the egg wash
- 1 pinch Black Sesame Seeds
- Fill a pot with about 2 liters of water and add salt. Bring to a boil and drop crabs in. Boil for around 5 minutes.
- When crabs are done, remove them and skim the surface to remove any foam or particulate. Add in the rice, shallot, garlic, taragon, green onion, black pepper, and bay leaves.
- Set up another pot with about a liter of water and bring to a boil.
- Start picking the crab meat out of the shells. Toss the shells into the second pot of boiling water. Set the meat aside.
- Once you are done picking all the meat out of the crabs (about an hour) the crab shell stock should be quite concentrated. Strain out the shells and add the concentrated stock to the larger pot with the vegetables and herbs.
- Move the contents from the large pot to a blender (may need to do in batches) along with the Dijon mustard and tomato paste. Blend until smooth.
- Pour into a bowl and whisk in the cream. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Add more salt and pepper if needed, or add more cream to lighten it up.
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