She Crab Soup is a deliciously, creamy bisque. Whether you use fresh crab or canned, this easy recipe will become a favorite.
Why is it called “She Crab” Soup?
One summer we took a family trip to Charleston, South Carolina. When traveling, I like to find out the one dish the city is famous for and try and eat it as many times as I can. After all, how can you know what the “Best She Crab Soup in Charleston” is unless you sample a pretty fair share of them? (This post was originally published on July 13th, 2012 and has been updated to contain nutritional information. As an Amazon Affiliate, I receive commission on qualifying purchases.)
She Crab Soup, also called She Crab Bisque, was the dish of the trip. I discovered that She Crab Soup is made with female crabs. Makes sense. In addition, the roe of the female crab is added to the recipe. Unless you live in an area where crabs are regularly harvested, you will probably have a more difficult time finding “female” crabs.
How can you tell the difference between a male and a female crab?
One Spring, I went to a food conference in NYC. A friend and I took the opportunity to do as many foodie “field trips” as we could fit in. We found a crab vendor who gave us a quick “crab anatomy” lesson.
The crab vendor flipped over the crabs and showed us two crabs. He kept it clean, and told us that the male crabs have the Washington Monument on their undersides.
How do you make She Crab Soup?
After returning from that trip to Charleston, I was determined to find and re-create the best She Crab soup I had had. For inspiration, I leaned on The Joy of Cooking’s recipe for lobster bisque, from which this recipe is loosely adapted. Most recipes call for fresh crabs. In a perfect, very French world, you would use the shells of the crabs, and make a super rich stock. Obviously this is not always practical.
What’s the difference between Crab Soup and Crab Bisque?
A “bisque” is generally a soup made with shellfish. As I said above, in a perfect world the base of the bisque would be made with the shells of the crabs that we’d be using in the soup.
Bisques are enriched with cream, think of Tomato Bisque. What gives this bisque that certain ineffable quality, is the addition of sherry. Don’t skip that bit unless you must. I also like to add a shot of sherry just before serving for an extra kick.
How to make She Crab Soup
Since I wanted this she crab soup to be fast and easy, so I’ve used canned lump meat crab from the seafood counter of my grocery store, and bottled clam juice in place of fish stock. If you can find fish stock, substitute that for the bottled clam juice and chicken stock.
Many recipes start with a thicker bechamel sauce, but I prefer a lighter soup. Rice is traditionally used in bisques as a method of thickening, which also makes this soup gluten free. Surprising, this is a very rich soup, yet uses only a bit of heavy cream at the end.
Start with finely diced vegetables. These will be cooked and then pureed with the stock. The pureed vegetables will give the soup base flavor and body. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add tomato paste and stir until blended.
Add seasoning. Old Bay seasoning will give it a bit of a kick. Add more if you like. After the vegetables are tender, remove the soup from the heat and blend the base in a blender. You can use a immersion blender, but I find that a blender makes a much smoother soup. A word of caution when blending a hot soup. Only fill the blender jar up about 1/3 of the way.
Then cover the lid with a towel and hold the lid while blending. Hot liquids will expand, and we had many ‘blender explosions” in culinary school. Transfer the blended soup to a sauce-pan. Add the crab meat and heat it just until the soup is heated through.
She crab soup is rich, so all it needs is a simple salad and maybe some crusty bread and butter to sop up the dregs.
She Crab Soup
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 shallots diced
- 1 small carrot diced
- 2 stalks celery diced
- 1/4 cup red bell pepper diced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup white rice
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
- 3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Kosher salt and white pepper to taste
- 2 cups clam juice (bottled)
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 lb. fresh crab meat
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- Fresh chopped parsley and paprika for garnish
- Melt butter over medium low heat, add shallots, celery, carrots and bell pepper, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Deglaze pan with 1/2 white wine, scrapping up any browned bits.
- Whisk in clam juice and chicken broth (or fish stock), rice, tomato paste, Worcestershire, Old Bay seasoning, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, cooking until vegetables are tender and rice is very soft, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In batches to avoid burning yourself, puree crab soup in a blender until smooth. Once soup is pureed, bring it back to a simmer over a medium low heat.
- Add in crab meat, and whisk in 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Cook just until hot, adding 1/2 cup sherry the last 2-3 minutes for additional flavor. If necessary, thin soup with additional broth to desired thickness.
- Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a dash of paprika and an additional shot of sherry if desired.
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