Shell-stocked (shellfish stock)

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Yes, i said i eat (shell)fish occasionally! so occasionally in fact at this point in my life that i’ve had exactly one lobster dinner in, oh i don’t know – about a year. it was in the summer and it went something like this:

  • we live in new england and can order fresh new england lobsters from our local co-op.
  • we had guests staying for the weekend.
  • my *bright idea* “if we’re going to eat them we should be able to slaughter them ourselves.” (is that the right word for a lobster?)
  • the grill was going, the guests were outside, the cilantro chile butter was prepared.
  • M & i were in the kitchen frantically dealing with 4 large, wiggly (and kinda cute) lobsters.
  • …google searching i might add, “how to humanely…”
  • the cats also in the kitchen; getting antsy, eyes round, ears perked, noses & tails twitching.
  • i said a prayer (or 4).
  • i made M do it.
  • we halved them, slathered them, and put them on the grill.
  • i tried not to think about the kitchen scene of the crime while i dug in.
  • they were better than delicious.
  • after dinner i put all of the shells in the freezer.
  • and most recently i did this:

I make this stock ideally twice a year (usually sometime around the holidays i indulge myself in another some-such scenario). it’s equally as good with crab shells, and though i haven’t tried it with shrimp shells yet i imagine it would be just as divine. it’s crazy good and my ace in the hole when i want to make an over-the-top risotto, pasta sauce, paella, curry, soup, and even fideuá.

The first step is to put all the shells of a shellfish dinner, or two or three, into the freezer. they will last this way for quite a few months. when you have enough to make at least half this recipe, proceed.

Shellfish stock
adapted from the improvisational cook all the shells from 4 approximately 1 & 1/2 pound lobsters
1/2 cup olive oil
4 medium leeks (or 6 shallots, or 2 bunches scallions)
1 whole head garlic, peeled and crushed
4 cups white wine
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme sprigs (or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried leaves)
2-3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon aleppo pepper (or cayenne powder, or spanish smoked paprika)
1/4 teaspoon saffron leaves
6-8 fresh plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (or 1 quart canned, broken into pot with juice)
a very large stock pot. i use my canning pot.yield: approximately 4 quarts1. upon taking the shells out of the freezer, break them into roughly 2 inch pieces. depending on how they were cooked originally you can do this with your hands or with kitchen shears. (if they were grilled, they are pretty easy to break with your hands, or at least with my paws.)

2. heat all but 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the pan on high heat. once heated drop the broken shells in and toss frequently for about 8 minutes, or until you smell the most wonderful aroma and begin to see some charred spots on the shells.

3. move the shells over to the side, turn the heat to medium and add the remaining oil. to the oil add the leeks and sauté until golden, about 8 minutes. add the garlic cloves to the leeks and sauté for 1 minute more.

4. add the wine, thyme, bay, fennel, pepper and saffron. add the tomatoes and give it a stir.

5. add enough cold water to cover by about an inch, this will be approximately a gallon of water. bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered. if the shells begin to pop out of the liquid during the simmering process, add water to cover.

6. strain through a fine meshed strainer. return to pot and let cool completely.

7. once cool, pour into freezer containers. i use plastic quart containers, and i also do ice cube size for when i need and extra jolt of flavor but i don’t need a whole quart of broth. to do this, freeze in ice cube trays, after 24 hours empty into plastic freezer bags.

This stock will last for 6 months or more in the freezer, and it’s oh so good!

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