***UPDATE: After trying her lobster bisque leftovers in full glory, she texted me the exact following message…
So because I may have been a little hasty in my own judgement of the bisque, I am going to add my adaptation of the recipe below. Enjoy!
Episode 1.04 – The Deer Hunters – an iconic episode for Sookie St. James in the Gilmore Girls series. Food critic Lucien (Lucent? There’s some debate on the spelling here) Mills writes a review of the Independence Inn mentioning the religious-experience of Sookie’s salad of hot house tomatoes and assorted fresh herbs, sinfully creamy lobster bisque, the infamous death-defying magic risotto and simple handkerchief pasta with brown sage in a butter sauce that apparently sent him through the roof.
Okay. So there was A LOT to unpack here. For the sake of my sanity, bank account and welfare of my family I split this recipe list in three parts: 1. hot house tomato & herb salad and lobster bisque, 2. magic risotto and 3. handkerchief pasta with brown sage butter sauce.
So, number one – soup and salad. Sounds easy right? I have never tried nor attempted making lobster bisque, but holy crap was it labor intensive. I used a combination of recipes from New York Times Cooking and Martha Stewart. It merged the two methods of boiling whole live lobsters and using lobster tails versus using traditional ingredients while making the stock rather than adding them later in Martha’s version. I guess you’ll just have to keep reading to find out how it turned out for me…
I really wrestled with the idea of using live lobsters for the bisque instead of just the tails. From my research it sounded like live really was the best way to go. You have more remains to work with to create a more concentrated stock (which apparently was Sookie’s secret ) and you get the more flavorful claw meat, etc. I decided I was going to do it. If I was going to embody a rave-reviewed chef, there was no taking the easy way out. So I called the grocery store closest to my house and asked if they sell live lobsters – “I’m sorry – what? Oh, no, we sure don’t.” So I called the second closest grocery store and the nice man explained to me that he wasn’t even aware of a store that still sold live lobsters except for maybe Central Market. Looking at the Central Market website I finally found that they do indeed sell live lobsters. For $18 a pound. And I needed two of them. So because I live more than 20 minutes away from the closest Central Market and I’m not a Rockefeller, I sprung for three previously frozen lobster tails which still ran me around $30. It certainly felt sinful to spend more than $30 to make a soup I’ve never even tried before. Maybe that’s what Lucient meant.
It took me about 3 hours from start to finish to make the bisque. And it was quite the experience – I still haven’t quite gotten the salty spittoon smell out of the house. In the end I was a little disappointed with the outcome. It was so sweet I could barely stand it (but I also hate sweet/savory foods like sweet potatoes or gourd soup – which is also on the recipe list, joy) but I definitely did use too much cream and probably over thickened the stock with rice. So if I could do it again, which is highly unlikely, those are the two key things I would change. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it turned out badly, it just wasn’t my taste. I ended up giving the leftovers to my mom who literally did describe it as “fine.” Unlike Sookie I don’t see myself making gallons of bisque to deliver to my parent’s house until she changes her mind.
On the bright side, the tomato salad was fantastic. I used giant meaty heirloom tomatoes I found at Sprouts. They were juicy and colorful and delicious paired with tarragon, chives, parsley, goat cheese and pickled red onions. I sprinkled a little salt, pepper and olive oil on top and let it marinate in the fridge for a bit and I don’t know if you could call it religious, but it was dang good. And a nice relief from the three hours I had spent with seafood and sherry wafting up my nose. This took me about 15 minutes to throw together.
There’s so much I want to comment on from this episode of GG. Rory got hit by a deer, Sookie made an ungodly amount of risotto and basically became a psychopath and we get to meet Max Medina. I’m sure there are some big opinions from everyone here, but I’ll save mine for next week when I have some magic risotto and wine fueling my post.
Final Review: Instead of leaving you with my adaptation of a lobster bisque recipe, I would encourage you to try one of the two recipes I used which I’ll leave below. You may have better luck with lobster if you live closer to a coast than I do.
The tomato salad was great, and I definitely recommend making it as a nice appetizer or side dish for a small get together. I got an “OMG” out of my mom when she tried it, so I guess you could consider it a religious experience after all. Rating: Try the tomato salad. My mom really liked the bisque!
Hot House Tomato Salad with Assorted Herbs
3 – 4 large heirloom tomatoes
3 sprigs fresh tarragon
a handful of fresh chives, chopped
a few sprigs of flat leaf parsley
2 oz of goat cheese, crumbled
pickled red onions – I marinated my onions in ACV, sugar, salt and garlic
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Chop tomatoes into wedges. Tear off leaves of fresh tarragon and parsley and chop chives. Gently mix together the tomatoes, herbs, crumbled goat cheese and pickled red onions drizzle olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently once more and serve.
3 lobster tails
2 tbsp oil
1 med carrot
1 sweet onion
2 cloves garlic
3 sprigs fresh tarragon
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 c sherry
1 1/2 c clam stock
1/2 c cream
1 bay leaf
1/4 c rice
⅛ tsp cayenne
In a large pot lined with a steamer basket, bring 1 inch salted water to a boil. Steam lobster tails, top-side down, until bright red and tails are curled under, mine were done in about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Save the water used to steam the lobsters. When cool enough to handle run a sharp knife down the back of the shell and remove the meat and vein. Reserve the shells for the stock. Dice the meat and keep in the fridge until ready to use. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over and add the vegetables and herbs. Once the onions are cooked through and translucent, increase the heat to medium-high and add the reserved shells. Sauté for 5 minutes, then add the tomato paste and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the sherry, and cook for about 1 minute or until alcohol has evaporated. Add clam stock and 1 cup of the reserved liquid used to steam the tails. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 1 hour.Strain the broth through a colander, pressing down on the solids to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Wipe out the pot and pour in the broth. Add the rice and cook covered for at least 30 minutes, or until the grains are cooked to extreme softness.
Blend the bisque in a food processor or blender and return the bisque to the pot. Add the cream and a bay leaf and a few more whole sprigs of the fresh herbs and bring to a low simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and the herbs. Add the chopped lobster meat, let it heat through, then season to taste with salt and cayenne.