3 Alaskan King Crab Legs (they’re almost always already cooked)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup chopped carrots
¼ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped onion
3 cloves of garlic, chopped (normally I would not add this to fish stock but it works well with crab legs)
½ cup white wine
1 ½ cups fish stock
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt & Pepper
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
2 tablespoons cognac
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pinch of saffron
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Crack the crab legs, open them and extract the meat. Cut the meat into ½ inch pieces and reserve. Do not be obsessive about getting every last morsel of the meat because you’re going to use the shells for the stock and the meat remaining in the shell only boosts the stock’s flavor.
Heat 2 tablespoons in a large saucepan and sauté the mirepoix until it’s soft, then throw in the crab leg shells and cook for about two minutes.
Add the white wine and reduce for a few minutes. Add the fish stock and the water.(Counter intuitively, water is a wonderful ingredient. Where some people fear that water dilutes the taste, the reality is that it neither masks nor changes the basic taste of your dish but does give you the quantity and consistency you’re looking for. In fact, if you don’t have a good stock or addition, use water. Obviously, you have to strike a balance between ‘quantity’ and ‘watery.’)
Add the bay leaf and the thyme. There’s no need to prepare these with cheesecloth, as in a bouquet garni, because everything will be strained. Simmer between 30 and 45 minutes, to taste.
Strain the stock finely and discard the remnants. Season with salt & pepper to taste and set the strained stock aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan big enough to contain the finished bisque, and cook the shallots. Add the cognac and reduce. Add one tablespoon of tomato paste and cook for another two minutes.
Add the strained stock, the saffron and the cream to the pot and bring to a simmer. Do not over-cook or boil it! Stir in the reserved crab meat, serve in warm bowls and garnish with chopped chives.
John’s Wine Pairing
A challenging dish to pair. You need a wine that’ll stand up to the bisque’s richness. My first thoughts were a light sherry or a big, powerful and buttery Chardonnay but while those wines’ luxury would certainly complement the bisque, it might be more interesting to go with something just a little sharper – something that would bring some contrast to the palate. Finally, I settled on a syrah, which might seem an odd choice until you put its tannins, its slightly acerbic qualities, against the ambrosia of the bisque.
Sticking with our preference to buy local, I suggest a Babcock Syrah, from Lompoc, known as Identity Crisis because it can’t decide whether it’s a red or a white!