During the winter months, our local Whole Foods gets one or two shipments in a week of freshly cooked Dungeness crab. Like all seafood, crab tastes best when it is as fresh as possible.
Buying the Best Crab for Crab Bisque
When buying crab, ask the guy or gal behind the counter when they got the shipment in. The answer you want to hear is "this morning". If the crab came in that morning, or even the day before, it should be good. If it is 3 or 4 days, I would wait until the next shipment.
Make sure that you get a crab that is at least 2 pounds. If they don't have any that big displayed, ask if they have any more in the back. Have them clean the crabs and crack them.
Making Shellfish Stock for Crab Bisque
To make this creamy, flavorful crab bisque, you will need to make some homemade shellfish stock, so it pays to keep your leftover shells and freeze them until you have the occasion to make the stock.
Making stock isn't hard, like making chicken stock, it just takes time. You can freeze it in advance of using it.
What Is a Bisque?
Bisques are soups that are traditionally made with a seafood base or stock. They're smooth, creamy, and a little thick, but not super thick. For more examples, see our Smoked Salmon Bisque and Provencal Seafood Bisque recipes.
Alternatives to Shellfish Stock
Taking the time to make your own shellfish stock for this bisque is well worth it, but you can make it without that step by substituting any of following for homemade shellfish stock; know that the flavor won't be quite the same.
- Vegetable stock
- Storebought shellfish stock
- Seafood stock
- Fish bouillon or fish base
Make it Alcohol-Free
To make this alcohol-free, use stock spiked with a teaspoon or so of vinegar instead of the white wine.
Can You Make This With Other Crab?
In addition to Dungeness crab, you can also use the cooked, cleaned meat of these other crab varieties.
- Stone crab
- Snow crab
- King crab
- Blue crab
- Storebought lump crab meat
If you are lucky enough to have freshly caught live crab, you'll need to steam and pick the crabs first. Be sure to save those shells!
What to Serve With Crab Bisque
More Seafood Soup Recipes to Try!
- Clam Chowder with Corn
- Moqueca (Brazilian Fish Stew)
- Smoked Salmon Bisque
- Oyster Stew
- Manhattan Clam Chowder
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Mastering Soups and Stews.
The directions call for separated shells and crab meat. If you're using fresh crab, clean and cook it before picking the crab out of the shells.
4 to 6 cups crab shells
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped
1 carrot, roughly sliced or chopped
1 rib celery, roughly sliced or chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 sprigs thyme
Several sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
10 to 15 whole peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1/3 cup shallots, chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups shellfish stock
1/4 cup white rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/4 pounds cooked crabmeat, or more if desired
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Make the stock
Before making the bisque, you'll need to make the shellfish stock (see these instructions for details and photos).
Break up the large pieces of crab shell:
If you have large pieces of crab shell, you'll want to break them into smaller pieces. A good way to do this is to put them in a plastic freezer bag and use a rolling pin or wine bottle to roll over them to break them up a bit. Don't crush them.
Roast the shells:
For extra flavor at this point, put them on a roasting pan in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes. That will help bring out more of the crab flavor.
Cover the shells and (almost) simmer:
Put the crab shells in a large stock pot and cover with an inch of water. Put the heat on medium high and slowly heat up the water. When you see little bubbles of air starting to rise to the surface, lower the heat to medium.
Do not let the water boil! You want to keep the water temp at just below a simmer, around 180°F if you have an instant thermometer. The bubbles should only occasionally come up to the surface.
Do not stir! Stirring the shells will muddy the stock. As foam develops on the surface of the water, skim it away with a large spoon. Keep skimming off the foam every so often, and maintaining the heat at just below a simmer, for about an hour.
Add the wine, carrots, onions, celery, tomato paste, herbs, and peppercorns:
Once the stock is no longer generating foam, add the wine, carrots, onions, celery, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, parsley and peppercorns.
Increase the heat to return the stock to a low simmer, then lower the heat to maintain that very low simmer for 30 minutes. Skim off any new foam that develops. Add salt and remove from heat.
Remove the large solids and strain through a lined sieve:
Use tongs or a spider strainer to remove and discard the largest pieces of shells from the stock.
Then place a few layers of dampened cheesecloth or paper towels over a large, fine mesh strainer placed over a large bowl or another pot. Pour the stock through the strainer to strain. Discard the solids.
Either use the stock right away, or cool for future use. If you aren't going to use the stock in a couple of days, you can freeze it.
Remember to leave enough headroom at the top of any jar you use so that the liquid has room to expand as it freezes. You should use frozen shellfish stock up within 2 months.
Makes 2 to 3 quarts. Reserve 4 cups for the crab bisque, refrigerate or freeze the rest.
Make the bisque
Now on to the bisque...
Sauté the shallots in butter:
In a large, 4 or 6 quart saucepan, melt butter on medium heat, add the shallots and cook gently until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the wine, stock, rice, tomato paste, and then simmer:
Add the wine, stock, white rice, and tomato paste. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to continue to simmer until rice is completely cooked, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for several minutes.
Add two thirds of the crab meat, and then purée:
Add about two thirds of the crab meat to the soup. Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender and purée until completely smooth. Return puréed soup back to soup pan.
Add the cream, remaining crab meat, salt, and cayenne:
Add cream and gently heat soup until it is hot enough for serving. Add the remaining one third of the crab meat. Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste (about 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne).
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 37g||47%|
|Saturated Fat 22g||109%|
|Total Carbohydrate 21g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 9g|
|Vitamin C 18mg||92%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|