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Making a Crustacean Stock

(Newsletter Issue #007)

 

How to make a fine crustacean stock

The shells and heads from crustaceans such as crab, lobster, crayfish and shrimp can be used to make a flavorful crustacean stock. Crustacean stock or broth is useful as a base for soups and sauces and for cooking rice dishes. Usually crustacean stocks are made with tomatoes because the tomatoes enhance the color of the stock and their flavor is a natural match. Herbs, usually in the form of a bouquet garni, are also added to crustacean stocks, but tarragon, either chopped and added at the end or included in the bouquet garni is especially delicious. If you're using either crayfish, shrimp heads, lobster or crab shells, grind up the heads in a food processor or crush them with the end of a rolling pin so that all their flavor goes into the surrounding liquid. Don't put claw shells or thick crab shells into a food processor or you'll damage the blade. Since most shrimp come with their heads already removed, you may have to use just the shells from the tails. Freeze the shells in a plastic bag until you have enough for at least a small pot of stock.

Kitchen Tips -

  • Crustacean shells and heads must be well broken up so the surrounding liquid extracts their flavor. They can be broken up with the end of a rolling pin, the end of a cleaver held up on end  or in a food processor. Hard shells such as lobster crab and crayfish claws, however, will damage the food processor blade and should be broken up manually by hand. Thin delicate shells such as shrimp tail peelings, require no breaking up but the shrimp heads, if you have them, need to.

  • Crustacean shells can be saved for up to 2 months, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer, to accumulate enough to make a batch of stock or broth.

  • For rich soups or sauces, cream and butter can be used to extract flavor and color from crustacean shells.

  • Crustacean stock has an affinity for tarragon, tomatoes, saffron and cognac, all of which can be used to flavor sauces, soups and rice dishes.


Recipe for shrimp stock or broth

Shells and heads from crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp, crayfish, and lobster make full-flavored stock.

 

Put shrimp shells and heads in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with chopped aromatic vegetables.
Crush shrimp heads and shells with the end of a European-style rolling pin (the type without handles) or the end of a cleaver held up on one end.
Add coarsely chopped tomatoes, a bouquet garni and enough water to cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. Strain.

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