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Monday, February 28, 2011

Crab Bisque, French Bread, and Laird Chardonnay

I began working on this recipe during Monterey’s Dungeness crab season (November – January). It quickly became a great lunch recipe I made when having company. However, Mike and I have found it hearty enough to eat for a delicious dinner too. Now that crab season is over, I wanted to see if I could find a decent alternative to cheap, fresh crab. First, I tried some refrigerated Chicken of the Sea crab meat from Trader Joes. I would not try it again. Second, I tried Whole Food’s Whole Catch Crab Meat. I got the claw meat as it was significantly cheaper (~$12 lb). This was fantastic as I did not notice much difference from the fresh crab. Of course, you can always get crab legs and pick the meat. However, you would need roughly 4 lb of crab legs to get 1 lb of crab meat.

For me, the most difficult part of this recipe was making a proper roux. My first attempts at making a roux where not as successful as I would have liked. In fact, the first time I made this recipe Mike complimented the flavor, but told me it was not a bisque. Practice makes perfect, and I now feel confident that I can make a roux that will lead to a nice, thick bisque (this has been confirmed by my husband). Here are some strategies I have adopted to make a good roux.

• Once butter is melted, I set the timer for five minutes. I then whisk flour and butter constantly until the timer goes off.
• While whisking I make sure no flour is left unincorporated into the roux.
• It is crucial that the roux does not burn. If it does reduce heat, throw away the burnt batch, remove any burnt residue from pan and start making a new roux.
• Once the five minutes is up, I taste a little of the roux to make sure I can’t taste flour.
• When finished the roux should be light brown, but not burnt.


An oaked, creamy Chardonnay is a great wine to have with this bisque. I also think that it could stand up nicely to a Pinot Noir. Tonight we enjoyed A Chardonnay from Laird. The nose has notes of butterscotch with a hint of lemon. On the mouth, the elegant texture is both round and silky balancing notes of pineapple and vanilla. This wine is also blessed with a wonderful long, still silky finish.

Servings: 4 bowls (more if serving cups as an appetizer)


• 5 tbsp butter, divided
• 1 cup carrots (matchstick or chopped into pieces)
•1 small onion
• 4 tbsp flour
• 16 oz. chicken broth
• 1 cup half-n-half
• 1/3 cup Sherry (I use Paul Masson Pale Dry Sherry which I got a Whole Food for $6)
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tbsp. tomato paste
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you want is spicy)
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp white pepper
• 1 lb crabmeat, picked if necessary
• OPTIONAL: fresh chives, minced


1. Rough chop onion and chop carrot, if necessary.
2. Over medium heat, sauté onion and carrot in 1 tbsp butter until soft. Set aside.
3. In large pot over medium-low heat, melt 4 tablespoons butter and add flour, whisking constantly for five minutes. DO NOT BURN! See notes on making a roux above.
4. Slowly add chicken broth (about 4 oz at a time), whisking constantly to ensure mixture stays smooth. Pick up one side of pan, revealing bottom of pan, to check that all roux gets mixed in and is not sitting on bottom of pan. Repeat with other side.
5. Add onions and carrots, cover, and simmer for 1/2 hour. After 30 minutes, you should have a thick bisque base.
6. Add half-n-half, sherry, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, tomato paste, salt, and white pepper.
7. Blend with hand blender or put into blender/food processor, blend into a smooth consistency. Transfer back to pan if you used a food processor or blender.
8. Add crab and simmer an additional 10 minutes.
9. OPTIONAL: Garnish with fresh chives.



• 1 cup warm water
• 1/2 tbsp yeast (a yeast packet is usually ¾ tbsp)
• 1/2 tbsp olive oil
• 1/2 tbsp sugar
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 1/2-3 cups bread flour


1. Grease a large bowl with oil or butter.
2. Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water in a different large bowl; allow yeast to foam (about 10 minutes).
Foamy, bubbly yeast
3. Stir in salt, oil, and 2 cups flour.
4. Transfer to a floured surface.
5. Knead, adding flour as needed (you can stop adding flour when no dough is sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
6. Place in greased bowl, turn dough to coat all sides, cover with a towel and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).
7. Punch down and shape dough into a long slender loaf on baking sheet.
8. OPTIONAL: Cut diagonal gashes on top of the loaf and sprinkle with corn meal.
9. Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour)
10. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 - 30 minutes until bread is golden brown.

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