Posts filed under ‘crab’
Scott Penter was back at the Albany Farmers’ Market yesterday with his traveling chiller and a load of fresh-caught Dungeness crab. After getting his feet wet, so to speak, at last summer’s market, he opened a small business called – aptly enough – Seafood Outlet, off Highway 34 east of Corvallis. It’s evidently been successful enough to make this young fisherman-entrepreneur commit to continuing to try to sell his products inland, because he’s branched out to the Corvallis Farmers’ Market this season, too.
After stopping by to chat with him, I couldn’t leave without buying a crab; he fished me out a nice, vigorous 3-pounder, to the slightly squeamish delight oif a couple of kids who were watching (they were fascinated by the crab once it was bagged up, but ran squealing when Scott tried to show them another up close).
The first best thing to do with Dungeness crab, in my opinion, is just kill it, cook it and eat it, with a little lemon butter for dipping, some good bread to mop up the buttery juices and maybe a nice crisp white wine. That’s just what I did last night, but I could only manage half the crab.
The rest went in the fridge, and tonight I pulled it out, picked all the meat from the shell, and made a batch of tender, crispy cakes, using a recipe that guarantees you’ll taste more crab than “cake.”
Crispy crab cakes
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Blend in the parsley, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard, lemon juice and lemon zest until well combined. Gently fold in the crabmeat and mix well, then add 1/2 cup of Panko crumbs and fold just until mixed. The mixture will be pretty wet.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Dump the rest of the Panko into a shallow bowl. Using a couple of large spoons, scoop up the crab mixture and form it into patties; dredge in the Panko. If it falls apart, just press it back together. Slide into the hot oil with a slotted spoon, pressing down to flatten the cakes slightly. You’ll wind up with 6-8 cakes, depending on how large you make them.
Cook until crisp and brown, turn, repeat to cook the tops.
Drain on paper towels, and serve with a dollop of wasabi mayo, aioli or just a squeeze of lemon.
Makes two servings. If, like me, you’re eating alone, save the rest for tomorrow’s lunch!
I had to have a salad with my crab cakes, because my garden is suddenly producing so much leaf lettuce that I must eat salad daily (poor me!). Since I knew I’d be taking pictures, I framed the crab cakes with the salad, which is so tender and fresh it doesn’t need a dressing at all. Pretty, and delicious.
Except for the grape tomatoes, the Panko crumbs, the oil and the condiments, everything on my table tonight came from within about 60 miles of home. I like that.
… the next-best thing is having the coast come to me – in the form of impeccably fresh seafood at my local farmers’ market.
And now it has, in the person of Scott Penter, an entrepreneurial young fisherman from Newport who’s invested in a state-of-the-art traveling seawater tank and chiller in hopes of expanding his market beyond the Newport docks.
I got a heads-up a couple of weeks ago from market manager Rebecca Landis that Scott had signed on to sell his catch at the Albany farmers’ market. As a passionate pescivore, I got very excited, and was crestfallen last weekend when he didn’t turn up. Communication problem, evidently, because he was there yesterday with his bright blue tank and a big sign proclaiming in red letters: LIVE CRAB.
Dungeness crab is at the top of my personal favorite seafood list, and Dungeness crab pulled out of the Pacific this morning, loaded into a tank full of chilled sea water and trucked over the Coast Range to what might as well be my front door is a wonderful thing, indeed. Especially this weekend: I’d spent Friday in Newport at a working meeting, and evening commitments drew me back inland long before I was ready to leave. Finding Scott and his rolling Seafood Outlet business at the market Saturday morning was pretty good compensation for not being able to spend the night at the coast.
So I watched (and shot pictures) as Scott fished a feisty four-pounder out of his tank, weighed it out and accepted my money, to the vast entertainment of a crowd of small children who materialized the minute Mr. Crab emerged from the tank.
In minutes, I was on my way home with a fairly irate crab in a sturdy plastic bag, which got deposited immediately in a sinkful of cold water while I put the kettle on to boil.
If you’re accustomed to buying your crab pre-killed, pre-cooked and served on a platter with a little lemon and a mess of melted butter, the thought of dealing with a live one, with all claws waving and trying to grab you, may be daunting. Me, I learned to kill crustaceans quite literally at my mother’s knee: we lived in Newfoundland when I was barely out of toddlerhood, and some of my earliest memories involve going out with my dad to buy live lobster straight from the fisherman, bringing them home and dumping them in the bathtub (where their scuttling greatly amused me and my little brother) and then watching my mom use long-handled tongs to transfer them into a giant pot of boiling water. Children are ruthless, and any trauma I might have suffered was quickly assuaged by the gustatory joy of eating lobster as the butter dripped down my chin.
I’ve grown up to be what I think of as an ethical omnivore; part of that includes not merely being aware of where my meat and seafood comes from, but being willing to deal with the bald fact that eating animals inevitably involves (someone) killing them.
If you don’t know what to do with a live crab, allow me to recommend Catching, Cleaning and Cooking Bay Crabs, a free, downloadable .pdf version of a publication from Oregon Sea Grant, which happens to be my employer. It includes instructions for killing and cleaning the crab before cooking, or (for the squeamish) cooking it first and then cleaning. The former process produces a superior result, in my opinion, and that’s what I did as soon as I got home from the market.
After chilling the cooked crab for a few hours, I hauled out the butter and lemons, some crusty, locally baked Italian bread and a bottle of crisp, fruity Evolution wine from Oregon’s Sokol Blosser winery. A simple salad of baby spinach and arugula from the market with a smidgen of Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue cheese crumbled over it and I had a fabulous hot-weather supper. Half a crab is plenty for me, so I got to repeat (and photograph) the experience for lunch today.
If you shop the Albany market, check Scott’s tank next weekend. He also sells albacore tuna he caught and had canned by one of our region’s specialty canners; ask him, and he can probably tell you where he caught the fish, how much it weighed and for all I know, what the weather was like. That’s one of the joys of buying locally: You’re not only getting great fresh food, but you can learn about it from the people who produced it. It puts us closer to the food chain, and may even make us more mindful about what we eat.
I know I was mindful of that crab. I even thanked him for feeding me before I turned him into dinner.
The local farmers’ market may be closed till spring, but that doesn’t mean the end of locally harvested food. Here in the Willamette Valley, we’re just a hop over the Coast Range from the Pacific Ocean, where December marks the start of Dungeness crab season.
Say what you like about the scary-big Alaskan King crab, or the cute little crabs of the Atlantic coast: to my taste, nothing beats Dungeness crab for briny-sweet crab goodness.
Before the season’s over, I’ll make it to the coast to pick some up at my favorite crab stand, The Crab Pot, just south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, where the catch is mere hours from boat to boiling pot. For now, I’m satisfied to buy them at the local supermarket, cooked and iced and ready to eat.
And inexpensive. With crab selling for under $5 a pound, little wonder that it’s something of a holiday tradition here. Lots of Oregonians feature crab cocktail as a prelude to Christmas dinner. Me, I prefer to enjoy it alone, simply prepared and lightly sauced. I’ve been known to spread newspaper on the dining table, tie a dish towel around my neck and sit down with a whole crab, some melted butter, a cut-up lemon and my indispensible crab-cracker and not get up from the table till all that’s left are the shell fragments.
But crab is also suited for more elegant fare, as long as the treatment is simple enough to let its flavor shine through. Served over pasta, for instance, with a delicate cream sauce scented with saffron, which has a real affinity for seafood. (I’ve been growing my own saffron crocuses for four years now, and each fall my neighbors can see me squatting by the front garden bed, carefully plucking the three red stigmas from each little crocus as it blooms. Like most bulbs, saffron crocuses naturalize easily, so every year my harvest grows; after drying, I wound up with roughly four tablespoons of saffron this year; at market prices, this stuff is worth more than its weight in gold.)
Dungeness crab pasta in saffron cream sauce
- Meat from one fresh, cooked Dungeness crab, carefully picked over to remove shell fragments. (If you don’t know how to clean and pick crab, search YouTube for “crab cleaning” – you’ll find several great how-to videos).
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp chopped mild onion or shallots
- A pinch of real saffron threads
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 Tbsp cognac (optional)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp lemon zest, minced
- 1 Tbsp creme fraiche (optional)
- 1 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
- salt, fresh-ground pepper to taste
- Spaghetti, linguini or angel-hair pasta
In a small skillet over medium melt the butter; add garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.
While the onion and garlic are cooking, sprinkle the saffron threads onto the wine (saffron is water-soluble, and letting it soak in liquid for a few minutes will release more of the flavor and color).
Put pasta on to boil according to package instructions. When done, drain and return to pot.
When onion and garlic are soft and fragrant, add cognac; raise heat and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the saffron and wine, reduce heat back to medium and cook until reduced by half.
Stir in the cream, creme fraiche and lemon zest and simmer until the sauce is reduced enough to coat a wooden spoon (2-4 minutes). Stir in the crab to coat throughly; heat gently until warmed. Taste before adding salt – you may not need it.
Plate the pasta and cover with a generous helping of crab and sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper.
Serves two, but also makes great leftovers.
I was out of town last weekend and missed the farmers’ market: How was I going to meet my weekly Eat Local Challenge goal? All I had left from the previous week’s market were a couple of bulbs of kohlrabi (a good keeper, fortunately), and that didn’t sound like much of a dinner.
Luckily, my pantry (and the big old freezer in my basement) usually contains a good supply of canned, bottled, frozen and dried foods of local origin. Jams and jellies, of course (but a person can only eat so much apple butter, as tasty as it is), but also dried fruits and wild mushrooms, frozen meat, locally produced sausages – and seafood.
OK, the coast is an hour and a half’s drive away, but I still consider it local, especially at the height of the fishing season. There’s no fish fresher than the fish you can buy right off the docks in Newport, for instance, headed and gutted (and if you sweet-talk the fisherman, sliced into filets or steaks) and packed in a cooler full of ice for the drive home.
But thanks to a growing number of entrepreneurial fisherfolk, some seasonal seafood is also available canned: Pacific albacore, brined or smoked, salmon (yes, even with this season’s harvest restrictions, some varieties of Pacific salmon are available) – and Dungeness crab.
Last winter, I splurged on a case of crab canned by my friend and former Oregon Sea Grant colleague Ginny Goblirsch and her fisherman husband Herb under their Oregon’s Choice label, which they sell on line and from select Newport markets. One of the things I appreciate about Herb and Ginny is that they’re committed to sustainable fishing practices; their albacore is caught with hook-and-line, a method certified as eco-friendly by the Marine Stewardship Council. The other seafood they can is caught by similarly sustainable methods, and when they decided to begin canning their own products, they worked closely with OSU seafood specialists to come up with production methods that follow “best practices” for both quality and safety.
The big canneries that used to dot the Oregon coast are pretty much history, but the boutique seafood canners who’ve emerged in recent years represent a real, local-food treasure. While much of their output gets sold in gift shops or shipped outside the region, there’s nothing to keep us from trying it, too, if we can get hold of it before the tourists do. The price may be premium, but so is the quality.
Most of that case of crab got used up last winter, in crab bisques, crab dip for holiday pot-lucks and crab salad. But I still have a few cans left, and when I happened on them tonight while foraging for dinner ideas, crab cakes came to mind.
Crab cakes can be an iffy thing; I’ve had way too many that were all cake and not much crab, like greasy wads of vaguely crab-flavored fried dough. Through trial and error – and tips from a couple of excellent restaurant chefs – I came up with a recipe that’s both easy and light, crisp, moist and very, very crab-by. They’re astonishingly good when made with fresh crab meat, but between you and me, when Dungeness crabs are in season I rarely bother making anything elaborate from them – I just boil them and eat them, armed with a nutcracker, a bowl of melted butter and a lot of napkins. Picking crabs to produce enough meat for a recipe is just too darned time-consuming when you could be eating crab.
So I let people like Ginny and Herb do the hard work, and I get to enjoy the results. And boy, did I enjoy tonight’s crab cakes, served with an improvised Asian-style slaw of kohlrabi I’d bought at the market the week before.
(This recipe uses one can of crab to make four modest crab cakes – more than enough for one person, or a light meal or appetizer for two. You can easily scale it up to make more).
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley; other fresh herbs, added sparingly, can be lovely, too.
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 Tbsp real mayonnaise (do not, under pain of banishment from my blog, tell me that you used Miracle Whip or “lite” mayonnaise. Seriously.)
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 6 oz. can Dungeness crab meat
- 1/4 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), or other light, dry bread crumbs, plus extra for coating
- Salt and pepper if you want it. I never do.
- Equal parts butter and oil (I use canola) for frying
In a bowl, combine parsley, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, egg, mayonnaise and lemon juice and stir until well-blended. Lightly fold in the crab meat and bread crumbs until just mixed – try not to break up the crab too much.
Heat butter and oil in a skillet until fragrant and sizzling.
Spread extra bread crumbs on a plate. Using a large spoon, scoop up a fourth of the crab mixture (it will be quite wet) and press first one side, then the other into the crumbs. Transfer to hot skillet, flattening a bit to shape. Repeat to make four cakes.
Sautee until golden brown, turning once (3-4 minutes per side). Drain on paper towels and serve while still hot. No condiments required, although a dollop of mayonnaise with prepared wasabi mixed in can be tasty if you like that sort of thing.
Asian-style Kohlrabi slaw
(I don’t actually measure the ingredients for salad dressings – I work by the proportions-and-glugs method. This is my best estimation; feel free to taste and experiment)
- 1-2 kohlrabi, peeled, sliced and coarsely julienned
- Pickled sushi ginger, minced
- 1 Tbsp rice vinegar. If you have seasoned sushi vinegar, use that and omit the following two ingredients)
- 1 tsp Mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine) OR 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- Black sesame seeds
Mix the kohlrabi and pickled ginger. Whisk together the vinegar, Mirin (or sugar), salt and sesame oil and toss with the vegetables. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds. This is even better when it’s sat overnight in the refrigerator.