This show-stopping crab soup is a restaurant-quality bisque of sorts that’s smooth as velvet and fairly brimming with fresh crab. It’s also certain to impress, so we strongly suggest you prepare yourself for a flood of compliments.–Angie Zoobkoff
For the crab stock
- 2 blue or spider crab shells, including legs and body, crab picked and reserved
- 2 white fish skeletons, such as tilapia or flounder
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
- 1 small bunch of thyme
- A few parsley stalks (optional)
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, bashed
- 8 1/2 cups cold water
For the crab soup
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 good-size tarragon sprig
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 smallish star anise
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 9 ounces fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped, or canned chopped tomatoes (about 4 medium plum tomatoes or 250 g)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup Calvados or apple brandy
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cooked crab meat or cracked crab claw, for garnish (optional)
Make the crab stock
- Using a meat mallet, or the side of a rolling pin, bash the crab shells to break them up into pieces. Set a large saucepan over medium-high heat and toss in the shells along with all the other stock ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, uncovered, for 1 hour, using a ladle to skim any froth that rises to the surface. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Pass the stock through a fine strainer and discard the solids. You should end up with about 5 cups (1.2 l) or so of crab stock.
Make the crab soup
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, warm the oil and butter. When it’s bubbling away, add the onion, fennel, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and tarragon. Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the paprika, fennel seeds, and star anise and cook for 1 minute more. Then add the wine and chopped tomatoes, stir well to combine, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Add 5 cups (1.2 l) crab stock, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the soup to a blender and purée the soup, working in batches if necessary, until smooth. (You could use a hand blender if you prefer but just make sure you get a smooth consistency.)
- Pass the soup through a strainer set over a clean saucepan. You may need to push it through with the back of a spoon or ladle. Return the soup to the heat and bring to a very gentle simmer. Stir in the cream and the Calvados and then season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Serve the soup in warmed bowls. You can finish it with a swirl of cream if you like, some cracked black pepper, and a little dressed crab meat—or, as shown here, a cracked crab claw.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This crab soup smelled and tasted like the ocean in the best possible way. My inner Californian rejoiced. At first glance, I was a bit skeptical that the soup would carry much crab flavor, but the stock tastes exactly like fresh crab. The crab, fennel, and fennel seed gave the soup a slightly sweet undertone that was beautifully balanced by the tomatoes and other vegetables. Puréeing and then straining the soup made it exceptionally smooth. I served it by placing a mound of crab in the bowl and then pouring the soup over. A very elegant soup indeed!
This soup turned out very well. My husband and guests loved it. (In fact, my husband was ready to run to the store to buy more crabs to be able to make another batch but I had to remind him that we had enough leftover for several more servings!) Because my husband had the crab claws for dinner the night before, the prep time for the soup was really negligible. The next day all I had to do was clean and cut up the vegetables and it was basically done. I used king crab legs because that’s what I had in the freezer. I have no idea what kind of fish skeletons I used. I asked the fish monger for fish skeletons and he gave them to me. I also used 1/3 cup Sancerre because that’s what was open in the fridge. I cooked the crab claws the night before and my husband dutifully ate the meat and saved the shells. He had the best of intensions but I’m afraid there was nothing left for garnish. He tells me it was really good. I puréed the cooled soup in my brand new Ninja blender. It’s amazing. It held everything in one go and, once it finished pureeing the mixture, I felt no need to strain it. My blender did such a good job of puréeing the mixture, I felt it was an unnecessary step. I started to but noticed that the liquid was so watery once strained that I decided not to. If you have a good blender, I’m not sure you need to strain it. Personally, I felt the amount of fennel I used was a bit too much and would cut that amount in half. The amount of cream was a bit skimpy so I added 1/2 cup instead of the 1/3 cup indicated but I still think the cream wasn’t enough. The paprika I had on hand had a kick to it so the soup ended up being a bit spicy which was fine for us—in fact, it was a happy surprise, but if you don’t want spicy, you might want to monitor the paprika for its spice factor. The recipe made enough to serve 4 of us as a starter and we had again as much left over. Certainly, if I can manage to get my husband to actually save some of the crabmeat when he has his crab claws, the presentation would be enhanced and a few pieces of meat in the soup would be a pleasant addition.