This will probably come as no surprise, but I’m a little bit obsessed by food. So this is what it’s like to travel with me. I like to find out ahead of time what the specialty of the city/region/country is, and then make a point of tasting it at every meal. (I eat other food too!)
Last summer when we went to Boston, I ate clam chowder for lunch and dinner, every day…yes, every meal, except breakfast, ’cause that would have been just weird!
The same thing happened a couple of years ago when we went to Charleston. I had never had She Crab Bisque. If you’ve never tried something before, how do you know if the one time you have it, if it’s good, or even the best? I like to construct a Venn Diagram in my mouth, comparing texture, flavor and consistency at each meal. Only then, can I make a decision as to what the best is. Of course, this is purely subjective.
What I did decide, is that just like clam chowder, I don’t want it so thick that it resembles wallpaper paste, but it shouldn’t be too watery either.
I’ve been thinking about making She Crab Bisque since that Charleston trip. I googled a couple of different recipes and based on what I already knew about soups, came to realize that it’s just a béchamel base soup, with lots of cream and milk. Could I make it a little healthier, by reducing the amount of milk and eliminating the heavy cream? I fiddled around with a veloute base (chicken broth) and came up with something I think is the best of both worlds. What gives the bisque that certain ineffable quality is the addition of sherry. Don’t skip that bit. I also like to add a shot of sherry just before serving for an extra kick.
In a perfect, very French world, I would use the shells of the crabs, (that I steamed myself) and make a super rich stock. Now I can hear you guffawing. Not a chance! Using fresh crabmeat in a tub from the grocery store makes this soup surprisingly fast! I whipped it up in under a 1/2 hour. It’s rich, so all it needs is a simple salad and maybe some crusty bread and butter to sop up the dregs.
She Crab Bisque
4 oz unsalted butter
8 tablespoons flour
1 small onion, chopped, fine
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 can chicken broth
2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup sherry
1 cup regular milk (or more low-fat milk or chicken broth to thin)
1 lb. fresh crab meat (in a tub at the meat counter…or if you’re really ambitious, steam your own!)
Fresh chopped parsley and paprika for garnish
- Melt butter over medium low heat, add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add flour to butter and stir, until well blended. Cook a couple of minutes.
- Slowly whisk in chicken broth, stirring constantly until smooth. Add the milk the same way, stirring constantly. Add Worcestershire, Old Bay, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer.
- Add in crab meat and sherry. Adjust consistency, adding more milk, cream or broth to thin if necessary. Cook just until heated.
- Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a dash of paprika.