Any time I eat lobster, crab, or shrimp without serving the crustacean in its entire form – which is rarely, since I don’t eat lobster and crab all that often and I do like to suck on the heads of prawns and shrimp – I carefully extract the meat from the shells before, or after cooking, put the shells in little plastic bags, and freeze them for later use. In my house, shrimp- , lobster-, and crab- shells are definitely not trash. At some point during the year, the back of the freezer starts to turn into a little, overcrowded, plastic-packaged crustacean cemetery…which means it’s finally time to make shellfish stock!
Technically, you can make a basic shellfish stock by using oven-roasted shellfish shells and heads only. I do like to add a simple combination of vegetables such as onion, carrot and celery and some aromatics such as garlic, thyme, peppercorns, coriander seeds and fennel seeds, but all of those flavourings are optional, really. A tablespoon of tomato paste not only adds a nice color, but also adds a light tangy sweetness which I like and I would recommend you add as well.
Some people like to be real traditional and classy and add a splash of brandy, cognac, or white wine, which I usually don’t, unless I have it in my house already and am not planning on drinking it straight (which is basically never), but you can add some booze to deglaze the pan whilst sautéing the vegetables if you have any.
This homemade shellfish stock is better than anything you can buy in the store and it is great to use for seafood stews, seafood risotto, chowders, sauces, paella, and many other dishes.
- 800g – 1kg mixed shellfish shells (heads and shells from shrimp, langoustine, prawns, crab and/or lobster)
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 celery ribs
- 1 carrot
- 2 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Small bunch of flat leaf parsley
- 15 black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
- Salt, to taste
- Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius.
- Chop, or break larger pieces of shell, such as those of crabs and lobsters, into smaller pieces. Spread out the shells over a roasting tray.
- Roast the shells in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, roughly chop the onion, celery stalks and carrot and add to a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Also add the crushed garlic, sprigs of thyme, parsley, peppercorns, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and tomato paste. Sauté until the vegetables start to sweat and the onion turns slightly translucent for about 10 minutes.
- Add the oven-roasted shells to the pot with the vegetables and cover with enough water to cover the shells (around 2 - 2.5 liters should be enough).
- Bring to a very soft simmer, but do not boil too hard (boiling will make the stock very cloudy). Simmer on very low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Skim off the foam when necessary.
- Taste the stock and add salt to taste, or leave out the salt until you are ready to use the stock for another dish.
- Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve (lined with some cheesecloth if you have any, but this is not necessary).