Thursday, April 3, 2014

Budget-Friendly Crabmeat and Two Ways to Serve it.


         Not too long ago, my friend Susan wrote and asked me to send her the link to a very nasty article in Bloomberg News about farmed Asian Seafood.  I won’t go into the appetite suppressing details but the news was not good.  It involved shrimp from Vietnam, which is now a major supplier of the shellfish to the US.  Bad enough that our own shrimp has been dodging the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but this story gave both Susan and I pause. 

Crab on the other hand, seemed relatively benign and the brand I’d used for years, Phillips, had always come through for me.  But suddenly Phillips disappeared from our Fairway Market and was replaced with Chicken of the Sea.  I’d always assumed Phillips was as American as Andrew but I was mistaken.  Phillips is actually from the Phillipines.  Chicken of the Sea, a brand of canned tuna I’ve known since childhood, must be American.  In fact, its roots started here in 1914 and it’s headquartered in San Diego.  But I could have taken a clue from it’s CEO’s name, Shue Wing Chan, that it may not still be as American as it once was.  In fact, it’s Thai-owned by Thai Union Frozen Products TLC.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but there’s a certain level of transparency missing from its website and I still am unclear where it sources its crabmeat.  There’s no country of origin on its can.  It’s processed in Georgia and there are both a “Wild Caught” symbol and that of the “NFI Crab Council” on the can.  The Crab Council seal states that it is “Committed to Stability”.  Turns out the Crab Council is an industry group and its commitment to sustainability sounds like self preservation to me. But I checked and Atlantic Blue Crab is on the okay list.  That’s as long as it is Atlantic Blue Crab. But here it was in Fairway in four configurations—jumbo lump, super lump, lump and claw.  The claw was priced at 9.99 a lb.  The prices rose from there and I subscribe to the belief that it’s smart to be thrifty, so the claw meat is what I took home.      

One pound of crab meat is a lot for two people. It ended up being the basis for two meals.   I’d seen a pasta recipe authored by David Tanis in a recent New York Times that featured crab and basically positioned itself as a brunch or luncheon item.  Once I made this incredibly rich sauce for dinner, I realized that Chef Tanis was right.  Ideally, this should be served in smaller ‘luncheon’-sized portions or as an appetizer, it’s that rich.  It’s amazingly easy to make because crab itself barely needs any cooking time.  The four green items—serrano chile, chives, scallions and tarragon—lift the dish out of rich crab decadence.  I used fresh fettucine from Eataly. Chef Tanis used dry linguine.  My version was also even creamier than his. I used an entire 8 oz.container of Crème Fraiche for two people.  Unless you are cooking for four, use half that amount for two.  With a green salad and a lemon vinaigrette, you can have a very satisfying dinner on the table in 20 minutes. The recipe is below.

While I upped the quantity of Crème Fraiche, I hung back on the crab and was left with fully half a pound.  Crab really needs to be used within two days of opening so we had a quite a crab festival.  I’d spied a recipe for an Open-Faced Crab and Asparagus sandwich in Food Network Magazine.  Quite honestly, I’ve all but given up on that publication.  Despite all the fascinating combinations you see daily on Food Network TV, they never seem to show up in the magazine. Instead, it's filled with 'the lowest common denominator' recipes that are one step away from the Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup School of Cooking. It seems filled with the kind of However, asparagus is pouring into the market at great prices so I adapted the Food Network recipe and was quite pleased with the results.  I had some brioche buns that I switched out for the Texas toast in the original. I added lime juice to the crab mixture to give it some zing.  And I did the broiling in the Toaster Oven. The dish was very well received by Andrew and myself.  I should mention that it appeared on Food Network’s  “Contest” page where readers of the magazine are invited to “Name this Dish!”.  Andrew came up with Croque Marie Antoinette.  Not bad at all!  Here are the recipes:

Recipe for Spicy Crab Fettucine with Mustard, Crème Fraiche and Herbs adapted from David Tanis in the New York Times
Time: 20 Minutes. Serves 2 as dinner, 4 as an appetizer. Feel free to double.

        1/2 pound fettucine or linguine
        Salt and pepper
        1/2 cup crème fraîche
        3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
        Pinch of cayenne
        1 /2 pound cooked crab meat
1      serrano or jalapeño chile, seeds removed and finely chopped, or less to taste

2 tablespoons finely cut chives
6 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
1 tablespoon tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add linguine and a generous
amount of salt and cook until al dente.
       Meanwhile, in a wide skillet, warm the crème fraîche over medium heat Stir in mustard and cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Add crab meat, stir to coat, and heat through.

        Drain pasta and add to skillet. Toss gently to coat pasta, taking car not to break up the crab meat too much. Add the chile, chives, scallions and tarragon and toss to coat. Transfer to a warm serving dish and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Recipe for Croques Marie Antoinette--Crab, Asparagus and
Cheese on Brioche adapted from Food Network Magazine
Serves 2. Active Time 20 minutes. Total Time 30 minutes.
1/2 pound crabmeat, picked through
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Juice of ½ of one lime
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt
1 Brioche Bun halved (Or substitute Texas Toast)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 ounces monterey jack cheese (half grated, half thinly sliced)
½  bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and halved lengthwise
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix the crabmeat with the mayonnaise, mustard, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, scallion and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Set aside. 
Preheat the broiler. Brush both sides of the Texas toast with half of the melted butter. Place on a baking sheet and broil until golden brown on top, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip the bread; top with the crab mixture, spreading it almost to the edges. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Toss the asparagus with the remaining melted butter in a medium bowl and season with salt and black pepper. Arrange side by side on the toast, then arrange the cheese slices across the middle of the asparagus.

Return to the broiler until the asparagus is tender and the cheese melts, about 4 more minutes.


  1. There it is, our lunch for tomorrw. Some people browse shopping sites, I browse Chewing the Fat. :D Thank you Monte!

    1. Ana, have I told you lately that I love you? All best, Monte

  2. It's crab season here in Western Australia so I bought three freshly cooked ones and made the Spicy Crab Fettuccine last night (Good Friday eve) for dinner. It was absolutely delicious. Thank you for yet another excellent recipe.

    1. Dear Michele, It is always such a pleasure to hear from you! I am delighted you could work one of our recipes into your Easter festivities. My very best to you and sorry I did not get a chance to wish you Happy Easter in time for the big day. All best, Monte