Shellfish Essence

This recipe works for lobster, shrimp or prawn, and crayfish shells. Crab shells do not give up much flavor or color and are usually too hard to process. This essence is good for using in cream sauces or for mixing with lemon juice and oils for salad dressings. It can also be mixed with butter to make a shellfish butter. If the shells are not cooked, toss them in hot oil for 5 minutes over medium heat or put them in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes until they are entirely red.


  • 4 cups cooked lobster, crayfish, or shrimp shells
  • 4 cups fish stock


Grind the shells in a food processor just enough to break them up. Put them in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or paddle. Add 1 cup of the fish stock and mix on low speed until the shells are completely broken up in small pieces and the stock in the bowl is red-colored, about 40 minutes. (The long mixing time is necessary to break up the shells gradually and extract the full flavor and color.)

Scrape out all the shells and any essence sticking to the sides of the bowl into a saucepan. Add the remaining fish stock, bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain completely, pressing down on the shells, reserving the liquid and discarding the shells. Hold or freeze the liquid until necessary.