In The Name of Bisque
I read something today that got me to thinking about what's in a name. Within the world of classic French cuisine, titles of dishes and names of techniques and recipes can be a very confusing subject to research and contemplate. What I was reading has to do with the origins of the word "bisque". Apparently, this term was originally used to describe a stew like dish of various game-type birds, most notably a soupy-stewy dish made with pigeon. That information threw me for a bit of a loop. I was under the impression that a "bisque" is, and always was, a rich, creamy soup made from, and strongly flavored with, the shells and/or meat of various crustaceans such as lobster, crab, shrimp, crayfish, etc. I'm interested in doing some deeper research to see if I can trace the etymology of the word "bisque" more closely, but for now, we'll stick to extolling the glories of a well made seafood bisque.
Modern chefs will often take liberties with what they choose to call a certain dish, naming something after a classic preparation that may or not have much in common with their updated creation. "Bisque" is certainly no exception. There have been many instances where I have seen almost every type of cream soup, from roasted tomato to asparagus to celery root, called a bisque on upscale restaurant menus. It sounds fancier and more sophisticated, so maybe it can fetch a slightly higher price.
When it comes down to it, a well-made, crustacean based bisque is one of the very best things you could ever hope to eat. The incomparable combination of a velvety cream soup texture in harmony with the deep, sweet, soul-satisfying flavor of lobster or crab is truly an experience to savor. My students just spent their last class perfecting their lobster bisque technique, and their soups came out wonderfully. I should know...I tasted every one of them, twice.
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