Monday, July 19, 2010

Crabby Cruising Enchiladas

We had barely arrived in Petersburg when we received the gift of six Dungeness crab, delivered to the boat, cracked, cleaned and ready to cook. (thank you Norm!) Steaming the crab was a fast process, and then I spent a lot more time picking out the chunks of body and leg meat. That’s not a complaint… I’ll welcome fresh crab any time, but it is a lot more fun to share the picking task with someone else. Check out last year's love note to crab. (link)

There are two types of crab pickers, the grazers and the pilers. Grazers enjoy each chunk of crab as it emerges, while pilers wait until they have a substantial quantity before they savor the sweet flavor of fresh crab. Me? I'm a piler, and y'all better not try to fork anything out of my pile without permission.   

We enjoyed Crab Louis salads the first night, followed by crabby enchiladas the next, and countless snacks and stolen nibbles just because crab bits were available, fresh, and oh so tasty. Enchiladas show up frequently on the menu, with a variety of fillings, and I usually just "wing it" with the recipe. This week it was fun to adapt a recipe from my latest treasure, The Fishes and Dishes Cookbook (link), a captivating collection of seafood recipes and more by Alaskan women who fish. Sisters Kiyo and Tomi Marsh and friend Laura Cooper, the primary authors, include recipes and stories from female friends and colleagues who also work in the world of commercial fishing. Enjoy this book for the articles and sidebars as well as the recipes. 

Crabby Cruising Enchiladas
2 cups cooked crab
2 cups shredded jalapeno jack cheese, divided
1 small onion, diced and divided
1/4 cup sour cream
2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup chopped poblano chiles (canned mild chiles will work)
a couple of shakes each of cilantro and cumin

1 TB oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup mild green salsa or taco sauce
cilantro, cumin, garlic powder & onion powder to taste
1 TB cornstarch

6 small tortillas, flour or corn
sour cream & sliced avocado for optional toppings

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a small skillet and saute a handful of the diced onion until softened. Sprinkle on some cumin and saute until fragrant. Add chicken stock and green salsa; stir and heat. Taste and add cilantro, garlic & onion powder as needed. Dissolve the cornstarch in a bit of cold water and add to the skillet, stirring until it comes to a boil and thickens. Add water as needed to achieve a loose sauce. Reduce heat, but keep warm.

To prepare the filling blend the cream cheese and sour cream. Add the remaining chopped onion, chopped chiles, corn and 1 1/2 cup of the shredded jack cheese. Mix thoroughly; taste and add cilantro and cumin as desired; gently stir in crab just to combine. A squirt of lime juice tastes good too, or serve lime wedges alongside at the table.

To assemble the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 F. Spoon a very thin layer of sauce on the bottom of an 8-by-8 baking dish. Set up an assembly line of sauce skillet, a plate or pie tin for assembly, bowl of filling, and the baking dish. Dip a tortilla into the sauce to coat both sides and place dipped-side up on the assembly plate. Add 1/6 of the filling to the tortilla and roll it up into a cylinder; place it seam-side down in the baking dish. Continue with additional tortillas until the filling is gone. Pour any remaining sauce evenly over the top, scraping the skillet to get every last tasty drop. Scatter the remaining 1/2-cup of shredded jalapeno jack cheese over the top. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the top gets golden brown, bubbly and maybe a bit crispy.

Remove it from the oven and let it sit for at least 5 minutes to set up. Serve with assorted toppings available - sour cream, avocado, fresh cilantro, salsa, lime wedges, etc.

1. The enchiladas hold and reheat well, though I’ve never frozen a pan of them. Leftover enchiladas are not a problem onboard since we'll eat them for breakfast or lunch, but these have been known to be a popular target during a midnight fridge raid.
2. At home I’ll take the time to roast fresh peppers and tomatillos, use fresh garlic and herbs, and make my own salsa. When we’re cruising I find that cans and jars are welcome substitutes for hard-to-find or had-to-store fresh ingredients. the enchiladas don't care.


  1. Hey, I live in Alaska. Saw your comment on Kenji's "double-double animal style" article and thought I would give you a tip from a local on where to find a good burger. I'll give you a few (in decending order of how much I like them)and let you choose. All of these places are in Anchorage, so I imagine you'll have a shot at hitting at least one of them on your way back down south, unless you're already gone, in which case - I tried, right?

    #1 - Bear Tooth Grill - Corner of W. 27th and Spenard Rd. - These guys make a great bacon cheeseburger, the patty is large, but not so large as to be cumbersome, the bacon is thick-cut, the cheddar is always perfectly melted. The veggies are all premium (well, as premium as it gets in Alaska - we don't have amazing produce up here, even @ the farmer's markets), and they top it off with a side-dish of their Chipotle Mayo (which in my experience is the best chipotle mayo I've had,from San Diego to Seattle). The fries are no less impressive, as they are the perfect consistency, pack tons of crunch, and for some extra flavor you can get their signature garlic-cilantro fries. On a side-note, the owners of the restaurant run a brewery and serve a cornucopia of delicious microbrews.

    #2 Lucky Wishbone - This downtown spot is well-respected by locals, and more well-known for their phenomenal fried chicken, but they make a great burger too! Freshness is the name of the game here, as all of their meat is flown up overnight, so it's never frozen.

    #3 Sullivan's Steakhouse - Definitely a more upscale joint (also downtown), you can pop into the bar here during the evenings and catch some live piano/cello jazz styled ambiance, and a fantastic, melt-in-your-mouth burger.

    #4 More of a local secret than either of the aforementioned, the Arctic Roadrunner (Your Local Burgerman) restaurant near the corner of Old Seward and International Airport Rd is more of a fast-food styled burger, but is cooked with fresh, juicy beef, some great veggies, and they have some of the best onion rings I've ever had in my life.

    Hope one of these helps, and if not at least I've managed to stimulate my own appetite.

  2. Thanks for the burger tips... you make it sound worth a flight to Anchorage to taste test each one! But not this month, I'll just have to settle for homemade, home-grilled on the boat for a while longer.


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