Saturday, August 15, 2009

Crabby Cooking

 We LOVE steamed Dungeness crab, just minutes out of the salt water. Cruising in SE Alaska means we enjoy big, firm, meaty juicy crab legs that are so flavorful we no longer use melted butter or cocktail sauce on the side. Early in the season we feast greedily, easily consuming several crab apiece, even when dining on the really big boys. By August individual appetites diminish and the leftover crab present a storage issue, even though we try to harvest only enough crab for a meal or two and release the rest back into the bay.

It can be a bit daunting, sitting at the dinner table, gazing at the remains of a really good crab feed. Crab shells litter the table and spill out of bowls while the pile of uneaten legs looms in the background, still waiting to be cracked and picked. At this point in the evening all I want to do is recline somewhere comfortable and contemplate the pain of personal gluttony. But the crab won't pick itself and it's tough to find room in the refrigerator to store crab in the shell. It helps to have some company who will linger at the table, someone who cares even more than you do about picking out every last little bit of shell, or keeping the big leg meat pieces whole and not broken or shredded. Share the crab meat? Of course! Just help me get through this messy job and to my easy chair... oh drat, there's still dishes and galley cleanup to face.

Enough carrying on! Cracked and picked, the remaining cooked crab should be used in the next couple of days, or packaged and frozen for future use. Our preference remains crab fresh out of the steamer, but there are a lot of tempting recipes for cooked crab. Some favorites follow, in no particular order.

Crab Louis salad
Crab enchiladas, quesadillas or tacos
Fettucine Alfredo with crab
Crab ravioli in broth
Crab and shrimp lasagna with white sauce
Crab crepes
Crab omelette or fritatta
Crab dip/ appetizer spread
Crabby eggs, scrambled or huevos rancheros
Crabby eggs Benedict
Crab cakes and more crab cakes
Crab sushi
Crab-filled Thai summer rolls or wraps
Crab pizza with cheese and pesto
Crabby deviled eggs
Crab melt sandwich
Crab cioppino, chowder, gumbo or soup
Crab just grabbed with a fork as a snack when no one is looking.

...and by now we're a bit tired of crab, at least until we catch some more salmon,  have fish frames for crab bait and drop the crab traps to catch a few more Dungeness for just one more crab feed.

Note: at some future day there may be links to recipes for most of these dishes, or not. For now it will take e-mail or a phone call. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Leftover Magic

... Pasta with Salmon and Capers

The guests have flown home and the boat refrigerator is now packed with the fresh items we didn't eat and way too many small containers of leftovers that were just too tasty to toss. Partial jars of jams, sauces and condiments overflow the refrigerator door shelves, It's a nightmare of chaotic abundance.

We gobbled up the remaining huckleberries on our sourdough pancakes this morning. That took care of one container. For lunch we enjoyed mushroom risotto, cold salmon with sauce on salad greens, and grilled French bread. That was tasty grazing with two fewer containers to store.

We spent the afternoon in the dinghy, fishing and shooting photos of grizzlies at the foot of the falls in Pavlof Bay. All of that fresh air and sunshine (plus the adrenaline rush from the bear watching) took all of my energy, so while RL went fishing outside the bay I stayed aboard to read, relax and do some menu planning. Hmmmm, what to do with cooked pasta, and barbecued salmon with sauce? Combining ideas from two cookbooks, I came up with a new version of Salmon Pasta in Caper Sauce. Dinner rated two thumbs up from the Capt so this might become a regular menu item... and now there are two more containers out of the refrigerator!

Pasta with Salmon and Capers
Adapted from Fast Fish by Hugh Carpenter, Ten Speed Press
2 servings

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup onions, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB capers, rinsed
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, rough chopped
2 servings long pasta (spaghetti, capellini, etc.)
pasta cooking water, as needed (or chicken broth or white wine)
2 cups cooked salmon (barbecued with bacon & lemon dill sauce is best!)
2 TB olivada* (homemade tapenade or from jar)
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Asiago or parmesan cheese

Undercook pasta by a few minutes; drain but do NOT rinse; save 1/4 cup pasta cooking water to add to sauce if needed.

Steam or microwave salmon until warm; set aside and hold.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium low heat; add onions and cook until soft. Add garlic and capers; cook several minutes but do not brown garlic. Add parsley; cook for 1 minute. Add pasta to sauce; cook just to warm, adding pasta water as needed. Move pasta to outer rim of pan and add salmon to the center; cook briefly until warm. Stir in olivada and gently toss all to mix.

Twirl pasta mounds onto each warmed plate and top with remaining sauce and fish. Add pepper, top with cheese and serve.
*Olivada substitutions might be lemon zest or anchovies.

Pavlof Harbor, August 2009

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