Crayfish bisque is a part of the bisque family. The bisque originates from the area in the Atlantic ocean bordering south-west France and north of Spain at the Gulf of Biscay. Bisques are made of crustaceans’ shells and meat in the presence of vegetables and herbs. As we follow a similar recipe for all crustaceans, we must adjust for how easy it is to separate the shells from the meat.  This recipe was developed to serve 20-25 persons. But you can scale it down. Please observe the pointers in the next session and you will never fail on this dish.

The art of making crayfish bisque

Key in making a tasty crayfish bisque is to pan-fry the rinsed crayfish shells with attached meat on high heat. So the shells may get brown spots, but try to not char the bottom of the pan. Then add the vegetables in portions and fry briefly on high heat as well. As the pan scrapes are abundant with flavor, we use anise liquor and brandy to dissolve the pan scrapes followed by steeping the broth for about 45 minutes. Thereafter we strain the broth and press out the cooked vegetables and shells. We prefer to bind the soup with a béchamel sauce, but cooking with rice is another option.  As described in our shrimp- and lobster bisque recipes, do not be afraid to add chicken broth to the pan fried shells and vegetables to make the crayfish broth. The final result will be delicious and authentic.

Special equipment

  • strainer of siff
  • sharp cooksknife
  • 2 1/2 gallon (10 L) cooking pot
Crayfish broth ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

Crayfish bisque

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Course: Appetizer, Lunch, Soup
Cuisine: French
Keyword: bisque, broth and soup, crayfish, crayfish tails
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 25

Ingredients

Ingredients for the broth

  • 5.5 lbs (2500 g) crayfish shells with attached meat from 6.6 lbs or 3 kg fresh crayfish
  • 3 medium sized brown onions
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 2 white stems of a leek
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 1 large fennel or 2 medium sized
  • stems from two bunches of parsley
  • 4 large cellery sticks
  • 7.5 oz (210g) tomato paste (concentrate)
  • 2/3 cup Pernod, Ricard, Rakki or Ouzo (anise liquor)
  • 4 cloves garlic (optional)
  • several twigs thyme and/or rosemary
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 9 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp brandy
  • 18 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tsp sugar

Ingredients for the bechamel thickener

  • 17 tbsp white wheat flour
  • 14 tbsp butter
  • 1.5 cups nilk

Ingredient to make the final bisque

  • 3/4 cup cooking cream of creme fraiche
  • 0.6 lb (250 g) crayfish tails

Instructions

Instructions to prepare the cray fish and frying the shells and vegetables

  • Cook 6 lbs (3 kg) of fresh crayfish in portions for 1-3 minutes, until they color red; remove, let cool.
    briefly cooked crayfish ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh
  • With a sharp cooks knife incise the crayfish from the belly, having the knifepoint starting at the tail end.
    briefly cooked crayfish cut in half ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh
  • Remove all the tail meat and the claw meat (if there is any) and reserve the cooked meat and the shells with attached meat separately
    chef harvesting crayfish tails ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh
  • Rinse the shells with attached meat briefly under cold water and let drain
  • Wash the vegetables and herbs to ensure there is no sand or rubbish, but otherwise keep them in tact. Only the leeks may be cut in rings and washed to remove sand
  • Cut the onions (skin on), the leeks, the cellery sticks, the fennel, the carrots (skin on), the tomatoes (skin on) in course pieces
  • Measure the anise liquor and ready the tomato paste
  • Heat up the olive oil in a pan on high heat
  • Under high fires add the crayfish shells in two portions and mix. Keep the high fire but ensure there is no black burning. But brown spots on the pan and crayfish shells are fine
  • Add the onion parts and stir
  • After one minute add the leeks followed by the cellery parts, the carrots, the fennel and the parsley stems, add the thyme and rosemary, each added after 30-60 seconds under rigorous stirring
  • Then add the tomato and the tomato paste and bring the fire to low-medium, wait 2 minutes

Finishing the broth

  • Remove from the pot roughly half of the shell and vegetable mixture temporarily
  • Sprinkle the anise liquor and the brandy, stir to dissolve the bottom scraps; lower the heat
  • Return the shell and vegetable mixture back to the pot
  • Subsequently, add so much chicken broth that the mixture of shells and vegetables is almost submersed. Do not add too much broth!!! Err on the low side. Add salt and pepper
  • Continue to simmer for 45 min
    Crayfish broth ©️ Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh
  • After 45 minutes, strain the broth and press out the shell/vegetable mixture with a spatula. Do this in portions. Take time to press, as there is a lot of great taste in the juices that are pressed out
  • Let the broth cool down a bit (may be till 75 C) and use for the next step

Instructions to make the bechamel thickened broth

  • In a separate pan, melt the butter and then add the flour. Mix with a whisk
  • Let heat through at low-medium fire for 1 minute
  • Add the milk on low heat and use the whisk to mix in the milk. A course non-fluid 'dough' is formed, let warm for one minute
  • In portions add the strained broth at medium heat. Every time let thicken and then add more broth while stirring often

Instruction to finalize the broth

  • Cut half of the reserved crayfish tails in pieces and leave some whole. Mix with the soup and let the lightly thickened bisque simmer (low heat!) for 15-20 minutes. Use the other half of the tails for other dishes, such as cray fish with cocktail sauce, a seafood spaghetti or for croquettes
  • Serve with a little cream added to each bowl or plate

Notes

Method: pan-frying; simmering
Food allergy & intolerance information: shell fish, wheat gluten, milk

Remarks

  1. Adding some cream is preferred, but not essential
  2. The bisque is lightly bound by making a béchamel sauce, which also makes the soup taste more gentle, creamy and soft.

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