For the soup
Shells, heads, legs etc. from 2 – 3 lobsters
½ fennel bulb, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
6 – 8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups lobster stock
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper
The meat from 2 – 3 steamed lobsters; slice the tails, keep the claws and knuckles intact
½ to 1 pound steamed mussels
2 cups sautéd Swiss chard
Thick slices of grilled or toasted bread
1. Drizzle several glugs of olive oil in a large heavy stockpot and set over medium heat.
2. Add the lobster shells and brown for 2 – 3 minutes.
3. Add fennel, onion, celery, carrot, thyme and bay leaves, and cook until the vegetables are soft, 8 – 10 minutes.
4. Add the tomato paste, and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the paste darkens in color.
5. Add the cognac and light with a stick lighter or long match; Be careful with this step – you may want to take the pan off the heat to add the alcohol.
6. Once the cognac burns off, add the butter and flour, and cook for 5 minutes.
7. Add the stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. The soup should thicken.
8. Add the cream, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
9. Set a chinois or large strainer over a bowl and strain the soup, pressing down on the vegetables to extract all the juices. Discard the solids and set the soup in a saucepan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set on low heat to keep warm.
10. To serve, place a small mound of Swiss chard in the center of each soup bowl; arrange 3 – 4 mussels and several pieces of lobster meat around the chard.
11. For a nice presentation, you might bring the bowls to the table, along with a tray of grilled bread slices and a pitcher with the soup; alternatively you can complete the plating in the kitchen.
12. Pour the soup around the chard and shellfish, garnish with slices of grilled bread and serve.