I grew up in southern Louisiana, in a house where crab traps dangled lazily from the dock that connected our home to a large lake. When nothing else was planned for dinner, we’d haul up the traps and peer inside, hopeful we’d have several blue crabs waiting for us in the wired boxes. Occasionally, they turned up empty; but, more often than not, when we pulled on their wet brown ropes, we were greeted with several dozen blue crabs. Dinner.
We didn’t need anything particularly elaborate to bring our lake-to-table dinner plans to life. A large steamer pot, a baguette, and some freshly drawn lemon butter was usually good enough. But today, with a good deal more cooking experience under my belt, I like to do a bit more when I find myself with craving fresh crabmeat. Here, I’m using it in a classic Creole Crab Bisque, using all of the ingredients southern Louisiana cuisine is most well known for: chopped onions, celery, and garlic; a bit of tomato paste; a handful of long-grained rice; and loads of fresh crabmeat.
For sheer ease of preparation, I’ve used store-bought seafood stock and lump crab meat; but, if you’re lucky enough to have access to fresh crabs, you could easily make your own stock and pick your own meat. You can also play around with the ingredients in this bisque to suit your tastes. Add a bit more wine for some extra tang; swap thyme for tarragon for a more licorice-y flavor; increase or decrease the amount of cream to vary the level of creaminess. As long as there’s plenty of onions and garlic, some fresh herbs, and a hearty amount of crabmeat, you really can’t go wrong.
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 1 onion, chopped roughly
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped roughly
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 thyme sprigs
- ¼ cup of Cognac or other brandy
- ¼ cup of white wine
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of white long-grained rice (uncooked)
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 4 cups, about 32 ounces, of seafood stock
- ¼ cup of heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt; or ½ teaspoon of regular or sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 pinch of cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, plus more to taste
- 8 ounces of lump crab meat
- Chopped chives, for garnish
- Heat butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-low heat. Once melted, add flour and stir to combine until clumps disappear and butter is thickened. Add onion and celery, increase heat to medium, and cook until softened, about 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat if the flour and butter begin to burn. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and cognac. Cook until cognac has reduced almost entirely. Add wine, uncooked rice, lemon juice, seafood stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs from the bisque and use an immersion blender or countertop blender to purée until smooth. Add cream, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Taste bisque and adjust spices if desired.
- Ladle soup into bowls and top each with crab meat and chopped chives.