I had friends over for dinner last week and, aside from this crab bisque, I kind of screwed up.
I love hosting and I love going above and beyond when we have pals over for dinner. Things usually work out well. But this time, I bit off more than I could chew.
Not only did I boil up two different types of pasta with different cooking times (gluten-free for my gal pal, regular ol’ pasta for the rest of us), but I pan-seared some luscious scallops in butter and simmered up a caper + wine sauce for the pasta—both of which need to be done quickly and vigilantly; both of which get cold really fast. REALLY FAST. What the hell was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking.
Luckily this glorious bisque redeemed my ass at the dinner table.
I have a few things to say about this recipe and its process. So, here we go.
We’re currently living in a world that fist-pumps at words like easy and fuss-free while frowning at any kind of extra steps. With that, I’m begging you to NOT exit out of this tab when I tell you that taking the extra 20 minutes to simmer your crab shells in your broth is totally. completely. crucial.
I mean, you could technically skip out on this step and come out with a crab bisque, BUT NO. The flavor the shells infuse into the broth is no joke and I’m obsessed. I want you to experience that.
Breaking your own crab meat (whether with legit crab crackers or hefty scissors) out of its shells is a pesky task and you can easily be left with tiny bits of crab shell in your meat. So be extremely careful about this. Crab shells are rough and sometimes sharp; you don’t want these in your soup. Feel out chunks of the meat with your bare fingers and look for hard bits, discarding any your find. Canned crab is okay to use in bisques and chowders. Just make sure it’s REAL crab meat—and say goodbye to the ultimate flavor power brought to you by simmering those shells. (I told you I’m obsessed.)
If you make this dish, snap a photo and tag me on the Insta @killing__thyme! I love seeing your creations.
Creamy Crab Bisque
- 6 cups vegetable or seafood broth
- 1.5 lbs Dungeness crab legs with shells; reserve the shells
- 1 rib of celery, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped white, yellow, or red onions all work fine
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3 garlic loves, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- Kosher salt + cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 TBSP corn starch
- 1/2 cup cold milk
- Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish
Spread the crab legs and claws over a baking sheet or pan and bake until heated through (6-8 minutes if thawed, 12-16 minutes if frozen, depending on packages instructions). Let them cool. Once cool to the touch, crack the shells open with crab shell crackers or strong scissors, and carefully remove the meat, setting it into a large bowl. Reserve your crab shells in a separate bowl.
Roughly chop the crab meat. You can leave a few larger lumps for soup garnish if you wish. When done, cover the crab meat and place it in the fridge.
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, bring your veg or seafood broth to a simmer. Add the crab shells to the broth and let simmer for about 20 minutes. When done, place a strainer over another pot in the sink, and carefully pour the broth into the pot through the strainer to catch any shells and bits. Set the broth aside.
Give your original stockpot a quick rinse to rid of any possible shells or bits that might have been missed. Set on top of the stove over medium heat. Add the butter and heat until melted.
Stir in the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery, and cook until soft and tender—about 5 minutes.
Transfer your strained broth to your stockpot with the veggies and bring to a boil. Stir in the bay leaves, smoked paprika pepper, old bay seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Discard the bay leaves and carefully transfer the soup to a high-powered blender. Do this in batches if you must. Blend until smooth. Transfer the smooth soup back to the stockpot on the stove. (If you have a good immersion blender, you can keep the soup in the stockpot and blend it right in there.)
Over medium heat, bring the soup to a low simmer. Pour in the heavy cream, stirring to blend.
In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and milk vigorously with a fork; ensure there are no clumps. Then, slowly stir this mixture into the simmering soup, stirring constantly to thicken.
Reduce heat to low, stir in crab meat, and simmer until warmed through—about 5 minutes.
Serve and garnish with a drizzle of cream, chopped fresh parsley, and lumpy crab meat if you reserve some.
Be extra cautious when cracking your own shells. It's easy to leave bits of shell behind in the crab meat and you don't want that. Broken crab shell is rough and sharp. Use your bare fingers to press and feel through the meat thoroughly for any hard bits and discard them.