• Yield: Makes about 6 1/2 cups.

Scale up the recipe according to how many lobster shells you have; sauté them in batches if necessary.

This rich broth made from lobster shells is a great, easy way to make pricey lobsters go twice as far. It's so useful I make up batches and freeze it to make luxurious soups, seafood stews and paellas - among other improvisations - at a moment's notice.

Like bones for a stock, the shells can also be stockpiled in the freezer until you are ready make Lobster Essence. (If you have a lobster dinner in a restaurant, take the shells home in a doggy bag.)


  • The shells from two 1 1/2-pound lobsters (about 1 1/3 pounds)

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 medium leeks, white and pale green only, thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 1/3 cups)

  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 2 cups dry white wine

  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1 small imported bay leaf

  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed

  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • Large pinch saffron threads, crumbled (optional)

  • One 14-ounce can plum tomatoes, drained

  • About 7 cups water


1. Using kitchen shears, cut the shells into 2-inch pieces. In a large (14-inch), heavy saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil over high heat. Add the lobster shells and sauté, tossing frequently, until fragrant, 6 minutes. (If you don't have a large enough pan, sauté them in two batches). Push the shells to one side of the pan and add the remaining tablespoon olive oil to the empty side. Reduce the heat to medium, add the leeks to the oil and toss with the tongs; sauté until softened and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and sauté 1 minute.

2. Stir in the wine, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, fennel seed, pepper flakes and saffron threads. Squash the tomatoes in your hands and add to the pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer 1 hour, adding water as necessary to keep the shells covered with liquid.

3. Pour the broth through a fine strainer, pressing to extract all liquid from the solids. Pour into plastic containers and let cool completely before refrigerating or freezing.

Note: The broth will keep 3 days in the refrigerator, and several months in the freezer.

© 2005 by Sally Schneider. All rights reserved.

Sally Schneider
A former chef, Sally Schneider has won numerous awards—including four James Beard awards—for her books and magazine writing. She is creator of the lifestyle blog Improvised Life, a featured blogger on The Atlantic Monthly's Food Blog, and author of The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook. She has served as a contributing editor to both Saveur and Food & Wine, and her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, SELF and Connoisseur.