February 23, 2023

Lobster Bisque Thermidor

Recipe: J-C Poirier

“On the West Coast, everyone swears by Dungeness crab but, for me, coming from Quebec and New Brunswick, it’s all about lobster. I wanted to add an East Coast feel to the book and a nostalgia for my youth.”


Fish Stock (batch)

  • 9 lbs. fish bones
  • 6 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 4 medium shallots, sliced
  • 2 bulbs fennel, sliced
  • 2 leeks (white and green parts), sliced
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 small bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 sprigs thyme

Lobster Bisque Thermidor

  • 2 1 1⁄2 lb. live lobsters
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced, fronds
    reserved for garnish
  • 1⁄2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 sprigs tarragon
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 tbsp cognac
  • 1 cup white vermouth (preferably Noilly Prat) or dry white wine
  • 6 cups Fish Stock (see recipe) or water
  • 1 cup clam broth (store-bought)
  • 1⁄4 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 cup heavy cream (35% milk fat)
  • 1 cup grated Louis d’Or or Gruyère cheese
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt, cayenne pepper and fresh lemon juice, to taste


Yield: Serves 6

Make Fish Stock

  1. Place fish bones in large bowl, rinse with cold water, and discard water. Chop bones into small pieces.
  2. In large pot on medium heat, heat oil. Sweat shallots, fennel, leek, onion and bay leaves for 10 minutes, ensuring they don’t pick up any coloration. Stir in fish bones and sweat for 5 minutes. Stir in wine and cook, until reduced by half. Stir in parsley, thyme and 16 cups of cold water. Bring to a gentle simmer — whatever you do, don’t boil stock — and partially cover pot, leaving lid ajar. Lower heat to low and simmer gently for 45 minutes, skimming off impurities that rise to surface. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain stock carefully through chinois or tamis; you should have around 12 cups. Return stock to pot and cook on medium heat until reduced to 8 cups.

Make Bisque

  1. Fill large pot with salted water and bring to a raging boil on high heat. Butcher lobsters humanely. Place lobsters in pot, cover, and return to a boil, then lower heat to a gentle boil and cook until lobsters turn bright red, about 9 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare ice bath. Transfer lobsters to ice bath to stop cooking.
  2. When lobsters are cool enough to touch, place them on baking sheet and remove meat from tail, claws and knuckles. Reserve shells and, most importantly, bodies and all juices released onto pan. Dice lobster meat and reserve in fridge. Remove gills from each side of lobster heads and cut bodies into smaller pieces.
  3. In large saucepan on medium heat, melt butter. Sweat shallots, garlic, celery and fennel for 5 minutes, stirring often. Increase heat to medium-high, stir in lobster shells, bodies and juices, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in fennel seeds, tarragon, thyme and tomato paste, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring once or twice. Pour in cognac, use long match to light, and flambé to cook off alcohol. When flames die down, add vermouth and reduce by half. Pour in Fish Stock and clam broth. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Strain lobster broth through fine tamis into medium bowl, pressing down on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
  5. Clean large saucepan and pour broth back in, along with rice and cream. Stir to combine, bring to a gentle simmer on medium heat, then lower heat to low, cover and cook until rice is extremely soft, about 20 minutes.
  6. Transfer broth and rice mixture to blender and blend on high speed for 1 minute, or until smooth. Add cheese and mustard, and blend for 1 minute.
  7. Pass bisque through fine tamis back into pan. Adjust seasoning with salt, if needed, and stir in cayenne and lemon juice to cut richness. Add lobster meat and let stand, covered, for a few minutes to warm through. Serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Brit Gill


Excerpted from Where the River Narrows: Classic French & Nostalgic Québécois Recipes From St. Lawrence Restaurant by Jean-Christophe Poirier with Joie Alvaro Kent. Appetite by Random House, 2022.