Originally Posted by phatch
Annato--google annato oil, use that instead of sauteing in butter.
Sumac packs a lot of soluble red color with a sour lemony flavor. Some wouldn't be out of place in lobster bisque.
Sumac is a really good idea that made me smile, I will try to see how it works with lobsters, acidity really could fit in nicely, not just in bisque. It didn't cross my mind to pair the two of them.
Originally Posted by ChicagoTerry
If you live anywhere there is a Puerto Rican or Mexican population, check a Latino market for annatto powder or paste.
Well, this is Scandinavia so not that many Latino markets around, but will order online. I would prefer that to artificial coloring if need arises. Will look into it.
Originally Posted by Chefross
Perhaps it is the roasting of the shells might be your problem.
I make The French Laundry recipe for Creamy Maine Lobster broth.
In it he (Thomas Keller) simply boils the shells with carrots, tomato and mirepoix
It is reduced then cream and Cognac are added at the end.
That is pretty much how we do it, apart from the roasting, but end up with something that looks like a frothy caffe latte.
Originally Posted by rpooley
The only thin that stands out to me is that most lobster stock recipes I have read say that a half hour is enough.
Also, we are assuming the stomach and dead mans fingers are out.
I have had good luck using coral butter to finish. Gives a great red color.
Well, it seems you are actually on the right track. I mentioned that I experimented with butter and I seem to have found a solution which today made me jump with happiness. It appears butter is essential to extracting the red pigment from the shells.
Thanks to January here being the slowest month of the year, yesterday I sauteed some shells to try some new ideas out. I did two parallel small batches, one was unroasted shells and another one roasted. I sauteed the shells in a lot of butter for some 10 mins, but instead of sieving the butter I deglazed the shells&butter with enough water to cover the shells and boiled vigorously for half an hour instead of simmering for one hour. And it worked!
Earlier I came across Howard Mitcham's "Creole Gumbo and All That Jazz" in which he boils fish/seafood stock vigorously for half an hour instead of simmering it like you would with beef, so I wanted to try that out as well.
The result was what I was looking for. After sieving I let it cool overnight so I could skim the butter. Butter of course had a fantastic orange color but the stock was also a lot more red than usual. It appears as though lobster pigment is not water, but fat soluble and during the short period that lobster shells cook in water there is not enough time for the color to transfer. Butter obviously does it quicker and also during the reduction it seems to release color back into the water. Both roasted and unroasted stock had a nice deep red color which when cream is added turns into lovely pale reddish orange. And that is even without mounting it with lobster butter.
I served both bisque samples (so just shells, butter and cream) to staff for a blind taste to see which one they like better and all of them chose the roasted shell one. It does have a more pronounced red color and the taste is much sharper and deeper, with a spike and a decline in flavor. Unroasted one tastes more like fish soup and is mellower and smoother in taste release with a longer aftertaste.
The samples actually tasted so good that it made me wonder whether butter also helps extract flavor from the shells. Will try a big batch on Monday to see if I can repeat the success with a proper quantity of stock.
It puzzles me that none of the recipes available widely actually discusses bisque color, as though everyone gets it perfectly red. No suggestions as to what to do if your bisque looks dull and uninteresting, how to fix it, not even in the comments. It makes me wonder if the problem is in the lobsters that we use here. Even the recipes that include sauteing the shells in butter don't clarify its purpose and importance for the final result.
Overall lobster stock is becoming more and more intriguing as I come to know it, with having to be careful not to make it horribly bitter by overcooking, extracting the color from the shells, thinking of ways how to crush large amounts of shells as much as possible without killing kitchen equipment... Compared to that, beef and fish stock seems pretty much fire and forget.
Thank you for your input, I really appreciate the feedback. Maybe someone else will find these experiments and brainstorming useful. Now it's just to think of what to do with all that wonderful leftover lobster butter. :)
Will update on results of future experiments, maybe add some result photos if someone is interested.
And again sorry for the long post.