Make Sunday’s spread a seafood smackdown

Food writers around the country are dubbing this the “seafood Super Bowl.” Specifically, it’s a smackdown between West Coast Dungeness crab and East Coast blue crab. With Dungeness in high season, as covered in my latest column for Joy magazine, that’s reason enough to celebrate San Francisco, if I wasn’t already so inclined.

And the crab concept is a nice departure from the typical Super Bowl party menu of chicken wings and chili. If you’re going to do Dungeness, it’s best to buy them whole, put them on ice and let guests crack their own. They’ll eat a bit less, saving you some cash, if they have to work a bit for those morsels of meat.

Or enjoy the lion’s share yourself, then give your Super Bowl guests a hearty stew with a hint of crab the next day. Cioppino, of course, is the iconic San Francisco seafood dish, particularly served with big hunks of sourdough. This recipe for bouillabaisse is a close relative of tomato-based cioppino, essentially born the same way as the latter from whatever fishermen had left over from the day’s catch. Plus, bouillabaisse’s French origins also plays off the big game’s host city of New Orleans.

The classic blue-crab preparation, of course, is crabcakes with a sauce of mayonnaise and mustard and seasoned with Baltimore’s mainstay Old Bay Seasoning, covered in a previous post. The following recipe omits Old Bay, but you could add that to taste.

Crabcakes on the grill / MCT photo

Or hedge your bets on the game’s outcome and serve a crowd-pleasing crab dip. Find a recipe in one of the recent posts to this blog.

While beer will be Sunday’s beverage of choice, it’s not the best pairing with crab. So consider offering a glass of wine that complements the crustacean.

McClatchy New Service’s wine columnist suggested a crisp rose with seafood stew. I like Del Rio’s Rose Jolee and Troon’s Jeanie in the Bottle. For crabcakes, go with a more delicate albarino. Abacela in Roseburg generally is recognized as the best for that varietal in this region. And check out this Wednesday’s Wine of the Week on our wine-tasting page for another bottle to serve with crab.

Here’s how to kick off your crab feast:

Buy four cooked Dungeness crabs and reserve their shells and body meat for bouillabaisse. If using live crabs, bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Place live crabs into water for 8 minutes. Remove and place into an ice bath to cool for about 10 minutes.

Separate the claws and legs and put them on ice. When cool, extract the meat and serve on a platter with some dipping sauces and cut lemon. Separate crab heads from bodies and extract meat from body cavities, reserving for stew. Crack crab shells and reserve for stew, too. Keep all crab meat on ice when working with it, refrigerated when not. If not making stew immediately, store shells in refrigerator, too.

Dungeness Bouillabaisse

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 shallots, peeled and sliced

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 garlic clove, unpeeled

1 apple, sliced

1 head fennel, sliced

1 cup white wine

1⁄4 cup Pernod (anise liqueur)

6 cups fish stock

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seed

2 fresh bay leaves

1 tablespoons saffron (optional)

Salt, to taste

1 cup cream

Reserved meat from crab bodies (see above)

1⁄2 pound sable fillet (or any white fish)

1 pound mussels, cleaned and cooked

Heat the olive oil over moderate heat in a large saucepan. Add crab shells, raise heat and cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Next, add the shallots, carrots, sliced apple and fennel and cook until they release their liquid, about 6 minutes. Deglaze with the white wine and Pernod and burn off alcohol.

Add the fish stock, spices and salt and cook at a simmer for 4 minutes. Strain in mixture through a colander, pressing solids to extract maximum amount of liquid without forcing too hard. (You want a clean flavor.)

Return stock to a clean saucepan, add the cream and reduce to desired consistency. Then bring to a gentle simmer and add back the crab body meat, as well as the fish and shellfish of choice. Adjust seasonings.

Ladle soup into hot bowls and serve with crusty bread.


Crabcakes and Spicy Mustard Sauce

1⁄3 cup chopped red bell pepper

4 tablespoons canola mayonnaise, divided

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 green onions, root ends trimmed and discarded, white and most of green portions chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

1 1⁄3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided

1 pound lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

2 teaspoons chopped, fresh parsley

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar

1⁄8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Combine the bell pepper, 2 tablespoons of the mayonnaise, the salt, pepper, onions, egg and egg yolk. Add 1⁄3 cup of the panko and the crab; toss gently. Divide crab mixture into 8 equal portions; shape each into a 3⁄4-inch-thick patty. Place remaining panko in shallow dish. Gently dredge patties in panko.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to pan. Add 4 crabcakes; cook for 4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and crabcakes. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and remaining ingredients; serve with crabcakes.

Makes 4 servings.

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