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Lobster bisque brownish - how to get it red/orange

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone!

 

I have a question, recently moved to a restaurant that serves quite a bit of lobster bisque, taste is acceptable at this point but color is brownishly muddy, none of that vibrant color chacteristic of lobster. Stock is done with roasted shells (not burnt, just nice and red), mirepoix, fennel, dill, white wine and some tomato paste. We bring it to boil, simmer for 1 h, sieve, reduce to 1/4. Final prepp is bring stock to boil, add cognac, cream&milk and simmer a bit to lose alcohol. 

 

Did some reading here and elsewhere online, way we do stock seems pretty standard, yet no comments anywhere on color being dull and uninteresting. Tried roasting shells longer, boiling stock longer, reducing more but to no avail. The only thing that works is adding more tomato paste, but you can only push that so far. Tried adding more carrot to mirepoix, but it's easy to push it too far and no color effect really. 

 

Old school pulverizing the shells is not an option due to technical reasons. Been experimenting with sauteing shells in butter to bind color to it, works well and butter gets a nice orange color. I must admit I didn't hear of anyone mounting bisque with lobster butter to get the color right. 

 

Spoke to some other chefs that serve lobster bisque, they mostly admit to adding artificial colors and/or factory made lobster stock to improve on the color, which is roughly the same thing. Saffron is also not an option right now due to its price. 

 

Any experiences or ideas? 

 

Of course I don't expect it to be thai red curry red, but pale orange would be a big improvement. Also we add lobster tomalley and roe (we have plenty of it spare) when making stock for the flavor, it does make it slightly greener, but I tried leaving it out and it doesn't solve the problem. 

 

Sorry for the long post and thank you all for the suggestions!

post #2 of 9

Annato--google annato oil, use that instead of sauteing in butter. Usually made with olive oil, but you could use a neutral oil instead. 

 

Turmeric can pack a yellow punch, useful to work with paprika for color. Together, often used to imitate Tandoori coloring. 

 

Besides tomatoes, consider roasted red peppers. More flavor neutral. 

 

Sumac packs a lot of soluble red color with a sour lemony flavor. Some wouldn't be out of place in lobster bisque. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 9

If you live anywhere there is a Puerto Rican or Mexican population, check a Latino market for annatto powder or paste.

 

The powder is also called achiote molido and often comes in smallish cellophane packages that hang rather than in tins or jars.

 

The paste comes in 3 or 6 oz blocks. Far, far more than you will ever need to color a pot of bisque. A little goes a long way as far as color goes. It is labeled as achiote paste or recado rojo.

 

The flavor of either powder or paste is pretty neutral.

 

Be careful with either. They stain. Annatto is often used as a food coloring. There are nutty "anti food-additive" blogger-moms out there who think it is evil because of that, but it is a commonly used foodstuff in Latin cooking.

post #4 of 9
It's in our butter and cheese as well.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 9

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.

post #6 of 9

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.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post
 

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. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChicagoTerry View Post
 

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. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post
 

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. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rpooley View Post
 

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. 

post #8 of 9

Wish you well.  I, for one, was surprised when I learned that lobster stock is about as subtle as fish stock, meaning pretty short simmer time

post #9 of 9

My lobster bisque always has a kind of brownish-orangy color to it. It's more orange than brown, but I always thought this was because I made my own stock and didn't use colorings or base. Was it brown like gumbo or etouffee or what?


Glad you found a solution. I typically lightly roast my shells as well, but not too much. Kind of to dry them out a bit I guess. 

 

Also, do you clean the bodies really well? Cut the gills out, etc? I also wouldn't use the tomalley, just nasty. 

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