The best-tasting crabmeat comes from crabs you cook yourself. If you have access to live crabs, use them to make this bisque. Two 2-lb. Dungeness crabs or eight to ten hard-shelled blue crabs will yield about 1 lb. of crabmeat. You can also buy cooked crabs and extract the meat. Fresh lump crabmeat is the next-best option, especially if you are short on time; look for it at fish markets. Otherwise, use frozen or canned crabmeat, drained and quickly rinsed.
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. canola or grapeseed oil
3 large shallots, minced
5 cups fish or chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
3⁄4 to 1 lb. fresh or thawed frozen lump crabmeat, picked over for shell fragments (3 to 4 cups)
1⁄2 cup dry sherry, dry Marsala or Madeira
Minced fresh tarragon or flat-leaf parsley   for garnish
In a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and cream, and season with kosher salt and white pepper. Bring to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to low and stir in the crabmeat. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sherry and heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Ladle the soup into warmed shallow bowls and garnish with tarragon. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Christmas, by Carolyn Miller (Simon & Schuster, 2003).