Saturday, January 16, 2010

Don't call it a comeback

Last week, I tried a crab soup recipe that ended in miserable failure. After that disaster, the crab officially became my nemesis. It was the Lord Voldemort to my Harry Potter. The Stu to my Lois. It had to go down.

And I did it with a little help from Saveur magazine.

Once a year Saveur publishes a special issue entitled The Saveur 100. Traditionally they invite only food writers to submit ideas for this issue, but last year they asked readers to toss in ideas for a 101st item. What came in was so great that Saveur dedicated this year's issue entirely to readers. They were polled on favorite food finds including recipes, web sites, ingredients, kitchen equipment and even culinary superstars. I'm getting a little off topic here, but a few of my favorites from the list are:

Farmhouse dinner at Talula's Table, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Pyrex glass measuring cups

What topped my list - and made the front cover of the issue - came in at number 16: crabs and spaghetti. Seems really odd yet alluring at the same time, right? Here's what Al Leo of Gonzales, Louisiana, says about the recipe he submitted:

When I was a kid, I couldn't wait for summer to come so that we could go crabbing in the bays near Wildwood, New Jersey, and my grandmother could make crabs and spaghetti. She did it the old southern Italian way, by frying blue crabs in olive oil with garlic and butter and putting them right into the tomato sauce to finish cooking. (You can also use king crab legs) It was pretty messy plucking the meat out of those crabs, but that sweet, delicious sauce was to die for.

After reading that, I knew this would be the recipe that would win me the crab battle. My first stop was Schnuck's to round up the everyday items (onion, garlic, etc.), but I made a special trip to The Fresh Market for the crab requirements: 1 lb. thawed frozen cooked king crab legs and 1 lb. lump crabmeat. Unfortunately, they didn't have king crab legs, but their snow crab legs were on sale for $4.99/lb., so I took my chances with that.

Serves 4

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. thawed frozen cooked king crab legs, cut into 3" pieces
1 tsp. celery seed
3/4 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
8 leaves fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 28-oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
2 tbsp. half-and-half
1 lb. lump crabmeat
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. spaghetti

1. Heat oil in a 6-qt. pot over high heat. Add crab legs and cook, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer crab to a plate. Add celery seed, chile flakes, basil, onions, and garlic to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 9 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender along with tomatoes and half-and-half and puree. Transfer puree back to pot over medium heat. Add reserved crab pieces and any juices from plate and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add lump crabmeat and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt, cover, and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring an 8-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to sauce; toss to combine. Serve garnished with torn basil. Crack crab leg pieces to get at the meat inside.

Snow crab legs from The Fresh Market
snow crab legs

snow crab legs

Here is last week's competition.
lump crabmeat

Onions, celery seed, garlic, basil, olive oil...basically the moment before going in the blender.
crabs and spaghetti

The above ingredients have now been pureed with tomatoes.
crabs and spaghetti

Yum! And no fishy taste.
lump crabmeat

Lump crabmeat tossed in with the tomato sauce.
crabs and spaghetti

Here is the final result. Success!
crabs and spaghetti


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