December 19, 2012

25 Days of Christmas CoCo Style - Day 19: Don't Be a Crab

Today's guest post comes from my friend, the very talented Chef Tse. I swear by her cranberry sauce every year at Thanksgiving. And all of her recipes are a hit. Thanks Tse!

It's Crab Season!
From the desk of Chef Tse

Dungeness crab is hands down my favorite food. I remember being 7 years old and sitting on the counter next to the sink in my grandparent’s home. I watched with rapt attention as my grandfather nimbly turned a whole crab into tasty pieces in less than 10 minutes. I was fascinated by the process and could hardly wait until he would serve it on iceberg lettuce with avocado and grapefruit.

Don’t let the hard exterior of fresh crab intimidate you. Check out one of my Cooking with Tse videos ( where I show you exactly how to extract the tasty meat. With a little practice, you too can shell a crab in about 10 to 15 minutes.

Although Dungeness crab is sold year round, it’s at its peak from December to early spring. Here are some suggestions for buying, keeping and serving fresh crab.

Know Your Fishmonger
You’ve heard me say this dozens of times, if the person behind the fish counter knows you, the fresher your fish. This is true with crab and freshness is key. If you don’t like cleaning the crab, most fishmongers will do it for free.

Ask when he received his shipment of crabs and ask for the freshest ones. Crabs should be in a fish case stored on ice to keep them cold. Avoid places that keep them in big bins out in the open.

Crabs should smell fresh and clean – not like the beach when the tide has gone out. The shell should be hard and firm because crabs molt during the summer and fall. Ask for one that is heavy for its size and doesn’t have any legs or claw missing. If you’re not returning home after purchasing, ask your fishmonger to pack the crab on ice or bring along a small cooler.

If you’re using the crab in a recipe, multiply the weight you need by 3 to figure out how much whole crab to buy. For example, if you need 1/2 a pound of crab meat, you’ll need to buy a crab that weighs 1 1/2 pounds.

Crab tastes best when it’s eaten the same day. Remove crab from its packaging and place in a plastic tub. Lay a couple wet paper towels on top and refrigerate until ready to crack. If you’re cracking more than one crab, make sure you return the meat of the crab you just cracked to the refrigerator while you crack the rest.

I’ve found the red cocktail sauce you find in most supermarkets overpowers the delicate, sweet flavor of the crab. So that’s why I like crab straight with maybe a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice.

Happy – and healthy – cooking!

Dungeness Crab and Iceberg Salad
From the kitchen of Chef Tse

This recipe is a simple way to enjoy fresh crab. Soaking the iceberg lettuce makes it fresh and crisp. If you’re concerned about raw eggs, replace the homemade mayo with store bought. For a salad with less fat, replace the French cocktail sauce with an orange vinaigrette. Any leftover sauce can be used with shellfish, as a salad dressing or on top of avocado.

Serves 4

1 large head iceberg lettuce, about 2 pounds
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Cognac
2 drops or more Tabasco (optional)
1 medium Dungeness crab, about 1.5 pounds cracked (or 8 ounces crab meat)
Salt and pepper

Cut lettuce into bite size pieces and plunge into a bowl of ice cold water. Let lettuce soak 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, make a mayonnaise by whisking together egg yolk, Dijon and a pinch of salt. Very slowly add vegetable oil in a thin steam, whisking constantly. Once half of oil has been incorporated, increase flow of oil. Whisk in lemon juice then ketchup, Cognac and Tabasco. Taste and season if needed.

Drain lettuce and spin dry in a salad spinner. Place in a large bowl add 6 tablespoons of dressing and toss well. Reserve remaining dressing for another use.

Divide lettuce among 4 plates, top with crab and serve.


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