We’re not exactly sure where this recipe came from – it was discovered, barely decipherable, on a small, yellow piece of paper – but it’s delicious. It’s a bit involved and takes some planning and patience, but it is definitely worth it. Some bisques use a pureed rice base to thicken the soup, but this one uses roasted veggies that are then blended to provide a thicker, tastier base. You can buy pre-made fish stock or you can make a crab stock from whole crabs – details below.
For x4 servings you’ll need 2-1/2 cups crab or fish stock (we’ll talk you through the crab stock creation below or you can buy fish stock), x8 tomatoes (we used Roma tomatoes), x2 yellow peppers, x1 whole garlic head, x2 additional garlic cloves (chopped), 2 Tbs unsalted butter, 1/2 lb lump crab meat or 2-3 large crabs (if making your own stock and pulling your own crab meat), 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup brandy, 3/4 cup heavy cream, olive oil, salt and pepper. If you are also making your own crab stock, you’ll need 1 can of dark beer, 2 Tbs Old Bay seasoning, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 onion, 2 bay leaves and 1 tsp whole peppercorns.
Making the stock and pulling your own crab meat:
If using live crabs: in a very large pot boil water, beer and Old Bay seasoning. Drop crabs in and boil until red, about 10 mins. Remove and drain.
Crack open and remove as much meat from all sections of the crab, saving the discarded shell in a separate bowl. Rinse and place meat into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Hopefully you have about 1/2 lb of crab meat from this process.
Place all of your shells and other discarded pieces of crab into a large pot. Cover completely with water, place on the stove and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, add chopped carrots, celery, and onion – bay leaves and peppercorns – and reduce to a simmer. Place the cover on the pot, but slightly offset it to one side. Allow to simmer for about 30 mins. Strain out solids and place stock into tupperware for freezing and current use.
Making the bisque (with the stock created above or stock you buy):
Preheat oven to 425.
Cut x6 tomatoes in half and remove seeds, place in a large bowl, splash some olive oil over the top, add salt and pepper and toss well. Place the deseeded tomatoes face down on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Cut yellow peppers in half and remove stems and cores. Toss well in oil, salt and pepper (as above) and place face down on the same baking tray as the tomatoes.
Cut just the very top of the head of garlic off – possibly 0.5 to 1 cm, max, so you can see the exposed top ends of the cloves, but that’s it. Place the whole head into the center of a small piece of lightly greased aluminum foil (about 10″ x 10″ is fine). Splash a little olive oil on top and “tent” the garlic head by bringing all of the sides of the foil up into the center and sealing all of the edges – leaving some room between the head of garlic and the sides of the foil “tent.”
Place tomatoes and peppers on baking sheet and the garlic “tent” into the oven and roast for 30 mins.
Once the skins on the tomatoes and peppers look like they are just beginning to brown, blister and are separating from the body of the vegetable, remove them from the oven.
Reduce the heat to 375 and allow the garlic head to cook another 20 mins.
Remove the skins from the tomatoes and peppers – once they’ve cooled a bit the skins should just gently peel off – and place them all into a blender or food processor. Once the garlic is done, remove it from the oven and open up the “tent” (careful it will be hot!). Allow it to cool slightly and then squeeze the garlic out of the cut top of the head into a small bowl being careful to remove any of the papery skin that may get stuck. It’s a bit like squeezing toothpaste. Place the roasted garlic into the tomato/pepper mixture and puree the entire mixture.
In a large pot add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp of unsalted butter. Allow butter to melt over medium heat and then add x2 chopped garlic cloves, 1/3 cup chopped basil, x2 chopped tomatoes with the seeds removed and about 6 oz of crab meat (save about 1/2 cup of the crab meat to add later). Cook quickly until well combined, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato, pepper, garlic puree into the basil, crab and tomato sauté and stir well.
Add 2-1/2 cups crab/fish stock, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 cup brandy and 3/4 cup heavy cream. Salt & pepper to taste (and a bit more of both of these than you think goes a long way). Heat over medium heat to a simmer and stir well.
Using a hand mixer, blend all of these ingredients in the pot into a chunky puree. You can also remove them and place them into a blender or food processor to do this, but be very careful with the hot liquid.
Now – it would be great if this mixture could be left in the covered pot, off the flame and at room temperature, for a couple of hours. Just to let all of these flavors blend and settle. If this isn’t possible, it isn’t the end of the world, but it does help.
When you’re ready to serve, heat the entire mixture to a simmer and let it cook a bit until it thickens, probably about 20-30 mins. Add in the remaining lump crab meat and stir well.
Serve in chunky bowls with a splash of heavy cream and a sprinkle of roughly chopped basil on top.