Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I have crabs... and I couldn't be happier!

So, I've said from the beginning that there are going to be exceptions to my local rule.  This has got to be one of them! 

Soft shell crabs are about my FAVORITE food in the world.  I'm pretty sure that they are the most delicious seafood of them all... although it might just be that they're only available for about two weeks a year, so they're always a special treat.  Nah, I'm going to go with most delicious seafood of them all.  And they're so easy to make!  Which is good, because, seeing as they're only available two weeks a year, I don't get a lot of opportunity to practice...

I can never quite remember which two weeks, though, and I have missed them in the past.  Yesterday, on my way home from work, something told me to swing by the Public Market.  Having just gotten home from my dance trip, there was very little food in the fridge.  My original plan was to swing by Outpost and find something to make for dinner, but a little voice in my head said: "You have to teach tonight.  You don't have time for real food.  Cheat.  Get some fish!"  I tend to listen to the little food voice in my head... except, maybe, for the one that is constantly screaming "FEED ME SUSHI!!!" because that one doesn't understand that I have a budget...  But this was the good voice... The sane voice that tells me to eat beef when my iron is low, and craves vegetables all winter, and demanded I buy 7 kinds of tomato plants at the farmers market...  It may be the same voice that tells me that a bottle of red wine and a bar of dark baking chocolate are good for my heart, but we all have to have some flaws, right?

Anyway, I went to the Public Market, and wandered down to visit my lovely fishmonger boyfriend, and as I was pondering what to get he looked at me with a little wink and said "we have soft shell crabs..."

"Yes!  Thank you!  Yes!! NOW!"

Anyway, I've also gotten to the point where I need to pick some of my rhubarb, so I decided to use up some of that as well.  I love rhubarb pie probably more than the next person, but I also really enjoy rhubarb in savory dishes.  I've used it as a sauce for pork before, and so this recipe was somewhat inspired by that taste:
Rhubarb Risotto with Grilled Soft Shell Crab
Serves 2 with leftovers

  • 3-4 cups chicken stock (L)
  • 3-4 slices thick sliced bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (L)
  • 1 shallot, minced (L)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (L)
  • 2 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced (*L)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups arriboro rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white or rose wine
  • honey or maple syrup to taste (L)
  • 2 tbsp butter (L)
  • 1/4 cup chives, minced (*L)

  • 6 soft shell crabs
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Minced Chives (*L)
This recipe could easily be made vegetarian.  Replace chicken stock with vegetable stock, and use 2 tbsp olive oil in place of the bacon.

Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a medium sauce pan.

In a large saute pan, fry bacon until crispy.  Remove bacon, leaving drippings in pan.  Add onions and garlic, and saute until softened.  Add rhubarb and continue to cook until the rhubarb begins to soften and has released some of its liquid.  Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque with a little white dot in the center.

Add wine, and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid has evaporated (I used a rose, and it made the rice just a little bit pink!).  Do not let the rice become completely dry.  Add about 1/3 of the stock to the pan and stir.  Allow to cook, uncovered, until most of the stock has been absorbed, stirring regularly.  Add 1/3 more of the stock.  Again, cook uncovered, stirring regularly, until most of the stock is absorbed.  Add final 1/3 of stock and stir vigorously.   Allow to cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of the stock is absorbed.  Taste and season as desired.  If the risotto is too tart, add a little bit of the honey or maple syrup (not too much.  This is not supposed to be a sweat dish!).  Remove from heat.  Add the butter and retained bacon bits, stir, and allow to sit covered for about 5 minutes or until butter is melted.  Stir again to incorporate.

Meanwhile, brush crabs with olive oil, and season generously with salt, pepper, and chives.  Grill over a medium high grill, for about 3-5 minutes on each side, until firm to the touch but not burnt.  Do not overcook, they should still be juicy, even in the ends of their legs.

I served this with a mixed green salad from Growing Power (L), with Feta Cheese (L) and Rhubarb Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced rhubarb (*L)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (L)
  • 1/3 cup sweet, fruity wine vinegar (I used raspberry blush because I had it, but really anything would work.  I considered using a pear white wine vinegar too).
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, syrup, and vinegar.  Cook, uncovered, until rhubarb is very soft.  Transfer to a blender, add remaining ingredients, and blend until well combined and rhubarb is liquefied.   Allow to cool.

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