Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Crab Shack

I adore crabs, and for me, they are superior in flavour to a lobster. Their meat is sweet and succulent and incredibly versatile to a number of dishes. Quite why it does not achieve the same culinary praise as a lobster is beyond me.

Pound for pound they are also more economical, with the average meat packed hen crab costing little more than £3. With large numbers of brown crab surrounding the United Kingdom and Ireland, and despite the much highlighted problem of over-fishing in our waters, the brown crab remains a sustainable choice of shellfish.

It is commonly perceived that preparing a whole crab is a messy and time consuming business. If you know a good trustworthy and reputable fishmonger, the task of dismantling a crab can usually be escaped with a pre-prepared dressed crab or simply a tub with both the white and brown meat in. Never buy a whole dead crab unless you know how long it has been dead. But there is something so satisfying about bringing a live crab home and going about the business of boiling them and then taking them apart.

It has become quite ritualistic for me to come home with a couple of crabs fighting in a bag before boiling them in a huge pot of sea salty water and allowing them to cool, before ripping them apart and spending a bit of time with a metal skewer retrieving each morsel of juicy white flesh from the body. This might sound a bit macabre, but it is almost as pleasurable an experience as the actual eating. A fresh crab needs nothing more than a couple of slices of brown bread and a decent home made mustard or garlic mayonnaise to make for a classy yet un-pretentious dinner.

Aside from the shell, gills and stomach sac, every part of the crab is edible and both the brown and white meat taste sensational in very different ways. The white meat is succulent, clean and meaty and is often the preferred choice for many people. But the distinctively stronger brown meat should never be missed. It may not look too pretty but once eaten, you will see why it is considered a delicacy in many countries.

Cheap and plentiful, delicious and fun to prepare, the crab should be the number one choice of shellfish to eat. Here is a recipe which I’ve devised that celebrates our fantastic brown crab.

Crab, Cream and Whisky Soup with Crab and Chive Toasts
Serves 4

2 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
2 potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
150ml milk
150ml double cream
500ml vegetable or fish stock
300g crab meat, brown and white
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper

1 – Heat up the oil in a large pan then add the bacon and onion. Cook until soft and slightly coloured, approximately 5 minutes.
2 – Add the potato and carrot and heat through for 1 minute. Pour in the milk, cream and stock and bring gently to the boil. Cover, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potato and carrot are soft.
3 – Add the crab meat reserving a little of the white meat. Stir through then taste for seasoning.
4 – Pour into bowls and place some of the reserved white crab meat on top. Sprinkle with chives then with your thumb over the whisky bottle, drizzle a few drops over the soup.

Crab and Chive Toasts

4 slices of white or brown bread, toasted
1 egg white
1 tbsp corn flour
2 tbsp crab meat, white and brown
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper
Sunflower or vegetable oil

1 – Cut the crusts off the toasted bread then cut into triangles.
2 – Mix all of the ingredients except for the oil together in a bowl. Spread onto one side of the toasts.
3 – Heat up some oil in a frying pan then place the toasts mixture side down. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden and crisp.
4 – Remove and place onto kitchen paper


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

I'm with you on crab - I adore it, and don't have it often enough.

Perhaps next time, you could show us, step-by-step, how to prepare crab?

Peter M said...

David, I agree with you...crab is more flavourful than lobster. I think people are intimidated by the shelling of it.

Your soup with whiskey sounds grand...make mine a meal portion!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Now this dish packs a whollop David :D

Anonymous said...

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An article of the cooking of your site served as a reference very much.

I linked to your site from my blog.
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Anonymous said...

Nice to meet you.
An article of the cooking of your site served as a reference very much.

I linked to your site from my blog.
I am glad if I have you link to my blog.

Wiglet said...

Hi David,

I haven't written a comment on your blog since I found it a year ago. I just come and grab your fabulous recipes and cook them and eat them and love them - As do the family so thank you.

I would like to add to what aforkfulofspaghetti said, I have watched chefs prepare crab but I am terrified of doing this myself. We live by the coast and we have the best quality seafood available and yet I can't deal with a crab which is a good job we have a great fishmonger.

They are so tasty and yet again you have given a nice recipe for me to run and grab, eat and enjoy but this time I've left you a comment.

Anonymous said...

I always feel jealous when I read about your crab recipes - it is so expensive in London. I bet its better value where you live and fresh.
I am with you Aforkful on the master class in crab preparatiuon - would you show us how to prepare it in a really simple step by step approach?

Aimée said...

I agree, David, half of the fun is cooking and preparing the live shellfish. It always gets a good reaction too, if you are at a dinner party!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Growing up in New England, crabs were everywhere. Unfortunately, I was crabby about them. I just never liked the flavor. Your recipe may make me reconsider.

Rosie said...

I have to agree with you David regarding crab via lobster much more taste.

A great looking dish with bags of flavour - yum!

Rosie x

Cynthia said...

I've only had lobster a couple of times but I do agree with you that crabs have much more flavour. In Guyana (my birth country) fresh, live crab is sold all year round. Not so here :( And don't even think of purchasing it in a can, mortgage your house first!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, crab is much more flavourful than lobster. I also agree with your comment about picking every last morsel out of the crab - so satisfying. In fact, I agree with everything you said! The brown meat is such a treat and just different to the white, not inferior. You have got me craving now.....

Wendy said...

Totally agree with your thoughts on crab. In the summer months my neighbour dives off the west coast of Scotland and frequently returns with scallops for himself and me. Occasionally he brings a couple of crabs back too. How lucky am I???

David Hall said...

Hi crab lovers

I'm currently updating my website and hopefully, time permitting, I'll be putting up videos on my Blog. So yes, crab demolishing will be on there!

All the best

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