Deviled Crab

This recipe is from Su Rogers, my best friend’s mum–I beg her pardon for altering it a little, for I recall more of the meat is picked out of the shell in her recipe, whereas I enjoy the hard work at the eating moment.  It is also the only dish in this cookbook which contains cilantro.

Before I get into the recipe, I wanted to point out a new cook the book blog.  The Big Fat Undertaking–which I’m super excited about–details the process of cooking every recipe from Heston Blumenthal’s Big Fat Duck Cookbook.  The guy has his work cut out for him, so consider leaving a few encouraging comments to bolster his confidence.

Also, my friend Trish recently took a trip over to the land of the rising sun, and brought back with her a ton of really cool treats that she was kind enough to share with me and a few people from our work place.  I’d be remiss to not mention them all here.  She also sent me the coolest cutting board ever!

The crackers on the left were filled with a tasty cheese like cream, and each cracker had a different addition, be it raisins or almonds or nori.  Next to the crackers are a bunch of little hard candies that had intricate floral and fruit designs in their centers.  Each one sported a different interesting flavor.  The little brown balls on the right were made from sweet red bean paste and a covering of sugary frosting.  They were my wife’s favorite, and she claimed dibs on all of them.  In the back are some super crunchy shrimp crackers that came in an ornate metal box that had itself been ornately wrapped in gift paper.  Apparently the people making those crackers are very proud of them, as the box included a little brochure that I believe explained the long history of their shrimp cracker making, and how committed to quality they are.  Trish also sent me some fruit gummies that we tore through in one day, and some Durian gum that we’re still holding off on for obvious reasons.

Here it is, the world’s cutest cutting board!  Look at how happy that piggy is!  I’ve even found a place for you to buy one for yourself if you’re willing to part with seven dollars (and shipping and handling).

Now, on to the recipe.

As stated in the title, this dish is all about crab, so it only made sense to purchase a few live crab to work with.  This hefty dungeness crab  (and his comrade) were picked up at Central Market at a fairly reasonable price.  The fellow in the fish department was also kind enough to fish out the liveliest pair in the tank.  “Live is better,” he grunted at me.  He’s 100% right, and it was nice of him to ensure I got the best product they had.

In the cooking directions, Mr. Henderson mentions that if you’re up for it, you can kill the crabs before boiling them by opening the flap you see above, taking a long knitting needle and jamming towards the crab’s head.  Personally I have no problems just dropping the crabs into the water, and neither does Mr. Henderson.

The water–which was boiling before I put the crabs in–was made “as salty as the sea” to keep it from leeching into the crab and making the meat wet.  For reasons I’m unsure of, one of the crab lost both of his front claws when I dropped him in.  It reminded me of all of the crab that get too cold on “The Deadliest Catch” and end up popping off all of their limbs.

After the crab had cooked enough I removed them from the pot and let them cool before putting them in the fridge.  Small tip: don’t put freshly boiled crab in the fridge overnight unless you want to have crab flavored ice. Ugh.

The next day before a party I was throwing, we started removing the meat from the various limbs and bodies of the crab.  Mr. Henderson likes to keep the crab mostly intact, but since I was serving this to a bunch of people who were busy talking and partying I went with a version that sounds closer to the one his best friend’s mother made.

My friends Chris H. and Robert O. came right into the kitchen once they arrived and started helping me coax all of the lovely crab meat from the shells.  I appreciated it greatly because with my ultra-fantastic luck I managed to wickedly slice my thumb open on a sharp edge of crab shell.  Sigh.

Robert was kind enough to start working on grating the ginger that was needed for the dish.  The recipe called for a whopping 1/4 pound of ginger!  A fourth of a pound of ginger!?  I suppose that if I had left the crab mostly in the shell that a huge amount of ginger would have been appropriate, but in this case, not so much.  I stopped Robert before he grated all of the ginger and just used what he had already done, which was about two tablespoons.  Thank you Robert!

As Robert grated, I worked on chopping some garlic, a few scallions and two slightly aged jalapeno peppers.  The lemons were juiced, and that juice was saved for a little bit later.  The aforementioned ingredients (minus the lemon juice) were all put in a pan with a splash of olive oil and sauteed for a few minutes.

All of fresh crab meat was finally added to the pan to mingle with the other ingredients and get up to temperature.  Salt, pepper, and the lemon juice were judiciously sprinkled over the pan.

Right before serving, chopped parsley and cilantro were stirred into the mixture, and the dish was finished.

I’m going to quote my wife to describe this recipe: “The deviled crab reminds me a lot of deviled eggs in the sense that it was so unique, so different from everything else that it really stands alone from other crab dishes I’ve had before.  I enjoyed it a lot, and there is nothing quite like fresh, real crab meat.”  Another party guest had never eaten real crab meat, mistaking the fake Surimi junk as the real thing.  He was very surprised by the flavor and ate more than two servings.

I too really dug this dish.  It was light, refreshing, and packed full of flavor from the ginger, peppers and cilantro.  You’d think that the delicate crab flavor would be lost in that taste jungle, but there was more than enough meat to cut through the underbrush and really leave a lasting impression.  If I had one criticism, I’d have liked something like rice as a base to add a little more substance to each serving.

One down, sixty three to go.

Roast Pigeon

Pigeons (squab) are wonderful when cooked properly.  Maybe they’re not quite as delicious as more glamorous game birds, grouse, grey-legged partridge, or woodcock, but they’re much cheaper and available almost all the year round.  Do not be put off by the urban pigeon, think woods, countryside, and plump, cooing pigeons in trees.

After a week of being unpleasantly sick with the flu (the non-swine kind, thankfully) I’m finally up and about.  The silver lining is that I’ve managed to catch up on Top Chef.  I’m rooting for Kevin, I think he’s got the skills to go all the way.  Go Kevin!

I’m going to be responding to comments, e-mail, phone calls, and everything else today, so expect to hear from me shortly.  On to the recipe!

I found some very nice whole California squab at my local Asian Market.  My previous luck with game birds at this market wasn’t so hot, but I had a good feeling about the two I picked up.  If you’re looking for some game birds yourself, Carol Blymire shot me an e-mail a little while back mentioning that D’artagnan has a bunch of game birds in from Scotland that I’m sure are top notch.  Once home, the squab were cleaned up and the heads and feet removed.

A quick dusting of salt and pepper inside and out, and the squab were seasoned.

Mr. Henderson instructs  that each pigeon needs to be stuffed with a sprig of sage and a knob of butter.  I think Julia would approve.

Another knob of butter was melted in an oven proof pan, and I started browning the birds all over, making sure not to leave them on their breasts for too long.  Mr. Henderson mentions multiple times that you want the breast meat to be blushing red when cut into.  When a nice browning had been achieved on both birds, I placed them into a hot oven for about ten minutes.

When the butter in the cavities had melted, the birds were ready to be taken out of the oven.  I took them out of the pan and placed them breast-side down so that the remaining butter could work its way down into the breasts and moisten them, and so they could rest.  In the meantime, I softened some onions in butter and a little sherry vinegar as my own little addition to the meal.

Squab is now my favorite game bird.  The meat was juicy, slightly nutty and robust with a very mild gaminess.  When I cut into the breast, it was a beautiful blushing red.  I did a jumping heel click in the middle of my kitchen I was so happy.

Looking back, I really regret the various times I saw squab on a restaurant menu yet passed on it for one reason or another.  Never again.

One down, sixty four to go.

Rabbit Wrapped In Fennel And Bacon

A tame rabbit will certainly feed four.  A wild rabbit will feed between two or three, depending on the size.

I wanted to mention the last article I posted over at Eat Me Daily,  Five Chefs Who Embrace The Nasty Bits.  I’m particularly proud of it, and I’m thankful that so many fantastic chefs here in America are working to change the mindsets and palates of the people walking in their front doors.

Also, my inbox just received an e-mail confirming my registration for the 1st Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival which is taking place November 6-8th, in San Francisco, CA!  If you too plan to be at the festival, keep an eye out for a tall fellow wearing an “I love offal” t-shirt.

I’ll be in the Silicon Valley area for the whole week beforehand, and I’m determined to make my way to Sacramento to meet up with one Hank Shaw.  Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll be able to visit Incanto again, I’ve been dreaming about the meal I had there last time.  Anywho, let’s get on to the post, shall we?

Before I started making the recipe, I need to dry out a few stems of fennel.  Mr. Henderson mentions in the ingredient list that good food shops should carry dried fennel.  Here in the states, we’re seriously lacking in good shops as none of the supermarkets or smaller shops had it in stock.  That meant I needed to make the dried fennel myself.

I removed the stems from the bulbs and arranged them carefully on a rack that I placed in my oven.  I set the convection setting to the lowest possible temperature and left the stems in there for 2 straight hours.

While it’s no dehydrator the convection oven did a fine job drying out the fennel’s stems and feathery leaves.  With my one missing ingredient finished, the actually cooking could commence.

I realize that it’s tough to tell in this picture, but the rabbit that I had purchased at the farmer’s market ended up being MASSIVE.  Weighing in at about ten pounds, this bunny could easily feed eight to ten people.  If you ever need to serve rabbit to a small army, Sebastian and Esther Bonneau of Countryside Farm at the downtown Austin Farmer’s Market are the people to visit, and I can vouch for the quality of their produce.

A quick slathering of olive and seasoning with salt and pepper, the rabbit was ready to be dressed.  Mr. Henderson instructions say to surround it with the fennel so that things start to look like a scene from The Wicker Man.  I placed the dried fennel all around the body, wrapping it around the front and rear legs and even including some in the cavity.

Next, I used slices of bacon to secure the fennel to the body.  The bacon–in addition to being tasty–also acted as a shield to the rabbit, keeping it safe from overcooking and drying out.  Rabbit is a very lean meat, so extra fat to keep it moist is always welcome.  In the roasting pan I added a few cups of chicken stock and a half bottle of white wine, along with some whole heads of garlic with the skin still in place.  The rabbit was placed in a medium hot oven for a little over an hour and a half.  In retrospect I probably could have left it in there a little longer, but my wife and I were hungry and unwilling to put up with the wonderful smell any more.

At first glance you can see how crispy the bacon got after it’s time in the oven.  We slowly, carefully began removing it from the rabbit, trying to not burn ourselves in the process.  While the bacon was still edible, the fennel needed to be removed.  Many of the fennel fronds had broken apart which made for a frustrating game of Operation.

The completed recipe.  I removed the front two legs for us to eat that evening, and served them with some of the bacon, a few softened cloves of garlic and a splash of the cooking liquid.  The thing we both first noticed was that the fennel had imparted a strange floral note to the bacon.  While I’ll be the first to admit that bad bacon is usually better than most things, this bacon proved to be an exception to the rule.  Edible for sure, just not tasty.  The legs on the other hand were perfectly cooked with a very nice anise property thanks to the dried fennel in addition to the usual gamy-chicken flavor rabbit is known for.  Some of the other parts of the rabbit hadn’t cooked enough and were rather tough.  I’m chalking that up to the fact this bunny was larger than your average NFL linebacker.

This was an interesting recipe, and while I might be persuaded to make it again if asked, I just don’t foresee myself drying fennel again any time soon.

One down, sixty five to go.

Random items of interest from around the ‘net

I’d pay money for more time to write, how sad is that?  There is another post in the works though and it involves a ten pound rabbit.  In the meantime, here are a few tasty tidbits of news that I’d like to share with you.

In my last post I shared this picture of the bone marrow spoon I was given for being a groomsman at my friend’s wedding.  A few people asked where they could buy one just like it, and I’ve found an online store that carries them.  At $43 a pop they’re a little expensive but sometimes you need the right tool for the job.

American-Statesman food writer Addie Broyles contacted me last week about an article she was writing concerning pork belly.  I was honored to give my opinions on such a noble cut of meat, and to be included with some of Austin’s great chefs and restaurants.  There’s also two excellent recipes included at the end of the piece.

I’m super excited that James Beard nominated food writer Hank Shaw from Hunter Angler Gardner Cook recently announced that he’s got a book deal in the works.  I can’t wait to buy a copy, and I’m planning on buying a dozen more to give away in a contest that I’m still working on.  Congrats Hank, you sure deserve it!

Over at Eating Nose to Tail, Sydney is curing some nice looking back fat, following a recipe from Fergus Henderson’s second book, Beyond Nose to Tail Eating.  It’s not quite done yet but I’m very interested to see how it turns out.  Go give it a look!

It’s almost the weekend, one more day to go.  I hope it’ll be fun and relaxing for you. Take care!