julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

Feeling a Bit…Crabby?

 

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“I wrote about all the things a cook can do with crabs. Paul sketched crab parts. And we ate heaps of splendid crab bisque. Then we moved on to eggplant.” – Julia Child

I’ve always been a fan of crab meat. When I was a kid, my uncle would take us out on his speedboat across the bay to a little restaurant on the water that served fresh crab, and we would sit at the paper-covered table with bibs around our necks smashing the dickens out of those little guys. To be honest, for me I think it was less about the crab and more about the memories. I know this because an evening at Joe’s Crab Shack doesn’t have quite the same effect on me – but I still like a good crab leg every now and then.

So when last night’s dinner of Quiche aux Fruits de Mer (seafood quiche) called for my choice of shrimp, crab or lobster meat (the former of which Ben can’t stand and the latter of which was WAY too expensive), I was excited for the chance to sidle up to the seafood counter at the grocery store and order my very first tub of fresh crab meat. The butcher warned me that because this was true crab meat, I would need to sift through the tub for any grit or shell pieces that may have found their way in. I felt so Pike Place Fish Market!

Sauteing crab meat and scallions

I just bought the meat on Sunday, but didn’t want to run the risk of it overstaying its welcome in my fridge, so I decided to make this dish last night while everything was still fresh. I have to say, it was a relatively easy recipe (I love it when that happens, don’t you?). First I made the pastry dough as I’ve done before, finally coming to terms with the fact that I will never win an award for prettiest pie crust. Let’s just accept that fact and move on with our lives. (I am encouraged, however, that my pie crust career could potentially thrive at this restaurant which is home to the infamous Ugly Crust Pie.)

Adding crab meat mixture to the cream filling

While the dough baked in the oven, I turned my attention to the filling and sauteed some minced scallions in butter, then added the crab meat. Because the meat was raw, I cooked it a pretty long time, then added a little bit of Vermouth to the pan. While the alcohol cooked off a bit, I beat a couple of eggs in a bowl with some whipping cream, added a tablespoon of tomato paste and seasoned it with salt and pepper, then gradually added the crab meat mixture. When the pie crust was ready, I poured in the creamy filling and topped it off with a quarter cup of shredded Swiss cheese.

I popped the whole thing into a 350-degree oven and let it bake for about 30 minutes. When the timer sounded, I removed it from the oven and couldn’t believe how nicely it had all come together – not to mention the yummy smells wafting from the pan! After letting it cool a bit, I removed the outer section of the springform pan and slid the quiche onto a serving platter. Perfection! The color from the tomato paste had really come out in the oven, and the filling seemed set without being crispy on top.

Finished pie crust or South Dakota Badlands? You decide.

Using a pie server, I sliced a couple of wedges from the quiche and set them on individual plates. As I cut into the quiche, I was surprised to see that the texture was very moist and creamy, a consistency more like that of a casserole. It seemed cooked through, so I decided to give it a try. Never having tried crab before, Ben was a little hesitant, not sure what to expect. He was pleasantly surprised (as was I, to be honest) – this was tasty!

The pie crust was flaky and baked just right (sometimes it seems to come out a little raw in the middle, but this one was done well) and was a nice contrast to the creamy filling inside. The Vermouth worked really well with the crab meat, taking it up a couple of notches, and the combination of the melted Swiss cheese with the tomato flavor was delicious. If you like seafood, especially crab, you would definitely like this meal. It wasn’t heavy, but it was pretty filling. Best of all, it was simple to put together and takes less than an hour to make (including baking a pie crust from scratch).

Delish!

The next time you’re having friends over, give this a try. It’s great for feeding a small group of people and it looks more impressive than it actually is. And when you tell them you made the crust from scratch, you’ll win mega brownie points. (Of course, you’d win even more brownie points if you actually served brownies, but you’re on your own there.)

Bon appetit!

– Jessica

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