T. Pittari’s Crab Bisque

For all its fame for wild game and lobster, the best food at the extinct, famous T. Pittari’s was its Creole cooking. Whenever I went there I hoped the soup of the day would be their crab bisque. It wasn’t the creamy concoction that goes under that name now, but a brown-roux potage with claw crabmeat. The waiter brought the bowl to the table, and dropped in two just-fried crabmeat croquettes. I have only rarely encountered anything that compared with this.

Crawfish boulettes.

Crawfish boulettes.

  • Bisque:
  • 4 lbs. crab claws
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 ripe green bell pepper, seed and membranes removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (preference: a good prepared marinara sauce, your own or from a jar)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • Crab boulettes:
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 ripe green bell pepper, seed and membranes removed, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 6 inches of stale poor boy bread, cut into cubes, with all crumbs
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 3 Tbs. butter

1. Pick the meat off the crab claws. Divide the crabmeat into two equal portions and set both aside.

2. Put the shells into a food processor and grind them for about ten seconds. Scrape the processor contents and the bay leaf into a saucepan with a half-gallon of cold water. Bring it to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. After 45 minutes, strain the stock into a clean large saucepan. Reserve 1/2 cup for the boulettes. Bring to a simmer.

3. In a saucepan make a roux, stirring constantly, with the flour and vegetable oil. When it reaches a medium-dark, old-penny color, remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and parsley. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft.

4. Stir in the tomato, sauce, salt, and cayenne, and about 1/2 cup of the crab stock. Stir until the stock disappears.

5 Add the roux mixture to the simmering crab stock and whisk until blended. Cover the pan and keep on the lowest heat setting.

6. Now, make the boulettes. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the butter until it bubbles. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook until the vegetables are soft.

7. Stir in the Worcestershire, black pepper, cayenne, salt, thyme, and lemon juice. Cook while stirring until all the ingredients are combined.

8. Wet the bread cubes with the reserved crab stock. Add them and half of the reserved crabmeat to the pan contents. Stir until everything is well mixed and the mixture is starting to get noticeably drier. Lower the heat and allow to cool for five minutes.

9. Stir the parsley and green onions into the crabmeat mixture. With a round soup spoon, scoop up balls of the crabmeat mixture about an inch in diameter. Roll them gently with your hands to make them uniform.

10. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat until it bubbles. Add the crab balls, a few at a time, and roll them around until browned all over. (You can also bake these for about 15 minutes in a 375-degree oven.)

11. Check the seasoning of the crab bisque and add salt, pepper, or Tabasco to taste. Add the remaining reserved crabmeat. Let it simmer another minute or two, then ladle the bisque into bowls or cups. Drop one or two crab boulettes into each bowl at the table.

Serves four entrees or six to eight preliminary courses.

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  1. Lycia Moran on March 12, 2017

    Is this place still open?

    T. Pittari’s closed in the 1980s.