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Seafood bisque

Ingredients:
2lb (1 Kg) fresh crustaceans
6tbsp (85g)butter
finely diced aromatic vegetables — one large onion plus as much again of other aromatics: carrot and celery are traditional; for variety, try also fennel, pumpkin or squash
one glass dry sherry or two of white wine
four cups (1 l) fish stock — or just milk, whole milk, as nature intended
one cup (250 ml) double cream — for unnatural excess
cognac — or try sambuca for a change
1 tbsp tomato puree
½ cup ( 4 oz; 100 g) risotto or pudding rice
bay leaf, bouquet garni, cayenne pepper

Put the vegetables to sweat very slowly in butter. You want them to caramelise gently to develop their flavour — they should become golden, not brown.

A seafood feast leaves a pile of shells, full of inaccessible nuggets of meat and flavour. Make a bisque!

First cook — grill, roast or fry — your shellfish — lobster, crab, langoustine, or balmain bug — until the shells go red. Remove the meat from tails and claws and set aside. If you're using leftover shells and have already eaten the tail meat, or if you just want extra body, prepare some treats — thin slices of scallop or monkfish; whole cherrystone clams or small oysters — to poach briefly in the bisque just before you serve it.

Remove and discard the gills from crab or lobster. Chop the shells roughly with a cleaver then fry in a shallow pan, turning as needed — or roast in a hot oven — until they are crisp, and deep red. Add cognac or sambuca, and set light. Turn until the flames die down. Deglaze with sherry or wine.

Now grind the shells finely. Traditionally this was done with pestle and mortar; I use a blender: blitz the shells, a few at a time with plenty of stock. Add the ground shells, rice, tomato, wine and stock to the mirepoix of vegetables. Simmer gently for one hour.

Strain the broth through a fine sieve. Add cream, return to simmer. Season to taste. Briefly poach any additional seafood, and finally add reserved tail meat.

Serve hot, garnished with chervil and croutons.

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