"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Lobster Bisque, Minestrone, and Hearty Goulash Soup

I can hear you. You're thinking, "One bout of the stomach flu and she's lost her mind with soups."

Although my mental status could be questioned at any time, my activity with soups is because Dr. and Mrs. S. went to D.C. and I had some time to do some stocking up. The entire family comes to the house in July, and so I used this opportunity to get ready and get some stuff in the freezer.

The Minestrone was great. Unlike many insipid versions I've had in my life, this one did not contain pasta (hurray) and did contain both pancetta and kale, which add to the flavor and body in a wonderful way. The Hearty Goulash Soup was likewise very pleasant although I'm not used to the idea of a beef stew with potatoes, and there are a lot of them in this dish (four large russets to be exact)

But the Lobster Bisque. Gourmet and Ms. Reichl, I have a bone to pick with you.

First of all, I want to know whose brilliant idea it was to alter the perfectly good recipe you published the first time around. Readers, if you go to Epicurious using the above link you'll see that you are asked to boil a lobster, let it cool, and pick the meat--then use the shells with sauteed vegetables, brandy and tomato paste to make a lovely stock.

In the Gourmet Cookbook, somebody thought it would be a good idea to take that sauteed mixture and put it in the food processor. Yes, shells and all.

Readers, do you remember Spin Art?

This is what happens when you take the shells from a hard shell lobster and put it in a food processor with soft vegetables. The force of the shells tumbling around (and ultimately getting the blades stuck) ejects the now liquified vegetables up under the lid of the food processor and out into space in a centrifugal spiraling (and decorative) arc.

There is nothing that makes me crankier than cleaning up lobster-y vegetable puree from: the backsplash. The counters. The floor. The calendar. The cookbook. The cabinets. The salt/pepper/butter. The cups with the whisks/wooden spoons/ladles. The toaster oven. And the cookie jars. (and let's not forget: Me.)

Well but wait, I thought, in the middle of my dark thoughts...it's the shells from the claw that are causing the trouble. The much thinner tail shells should be fine (and they were).

So what did I do with the very end of the cooked vegetables and shells, some of which were claw shells? Yes, I did it again.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice and I am a f***ing idiot.

To add insult to injury, once I pressed what I could of this puree through a fine mesh sieve, I didn't like the flavor. It was too much, too intense. The bisque is supposed to be finished with lemon juice, cream and the diced lobster meat, but at that point I just had to put it all away and get down to the business of cleaning.

I did finish it the next day, and was feeling rather more kindly towards it. Cream and lemon juice help the flavor and the finished product is a very nice bisque. What is especially nice about this recipe is that it doesn't rely overly much on butter and cream to get the thickness, and perhaps that was the point of all that pureeing.

But would I make it again, as set forth in the cookbook? Hell no!!!!!!

P.S. If you're going to masochistically try this for yourself at home, take my advice and leave the thick shells out of the processor, or even all of them. Also, hold onto the top.

No comments: