Friday, August 16, 2013

Live, Love, Eat...

In my hometown, there used to be a "Brew pub".  They were able to start a brew pub in this building, because liquor had been distilled in the building prior to prohibition, and somehow, this gave the location somewhat of a "pass".  The beer was okay, but they made sautéed crab claws that were the most wonderful mess of butter, garlic, wine, and crab!  Served with crusty bread, there was nothing better than finishing the sweet little seafood morsels and then sopping up the creamy swirl of leftovers in the bottom of the bowl.  I must admit, I am a little bit in heaven, just typing this.

Now for the bad news.  They closed.  I might have had a tiny bit of withdrawal, and looked for an equal at other restaurants.  No such luck.  I looked for recipes.  No such luck.  Then I decided to just work it out between other recipes - and now for my first ever blog post, I'm going to share it with you.

Apologies for the not so elegant photography, but it smelled so good, I took one quick picture and we quickly ate them with a loaf of fresh, crusty bread.  I have shown you the end result first, and now will show you how we got there.

For every 1/2 pound of crab claws you will need;

1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp garlic (fresh pressed or from a jar)
1 TBSP sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP heavy cream
1 TBSP butter
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Parsley - for garnish

*If you get nothing else from this blog, I hope that you learn this; Cooking is about what makes you happy, it is not about following the "RULES" - Rules are for baking.  The recipe above is a framework for building a dish that makes you happy, not that requires 3 trips to the grocery.  

I am going to give you detailed steps below, and include what I substituted for various reasons.  Don't let the way that I am breaking down all of the steps make it seem complicated, because after you have done this once, you will realize that you simply make the sauce, throw in the crab claws, cook them quickly and serve.  

1 - In a saute pan large enough to hold all of the crab claws (I made 2 lbs for 2 people, and it was way more than we could eat) add the WINE, GARLIC, SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, RED PEPPER FLAKES, BASIL, and THYME.  
Wine - Often you can buy small single serving bottles at the grocery if you are not going to have wine with the meal, they usually hold about 1 cup.  
I used Chardonay.  If you are worried about the alcohol, dont, it is going to boil away long before you eat these.
Garlic - If you like garlic, add more, if not, add less.  
If you have fresh garlic - I used 2 large cloves for 2 lbs of claws.
You can buy minced garlic in a jar that you keep in the refrigerator.  If I used this kind, I usually prefer the roasted kind.  It is much milder.
If you use garlic powder - use it sparingly, remember that anything dried is much stronger than fresh.  
Sun Dried Tomatoes - the best way to chop these is to use kitchen scissor (best. kitchen. tool. ever!) and mince them finely.  In the grocery, you can find them in several forms; simply dried, in oil, or made into a paste.  Confession - I am not a fan of the chewy texture, and so I used about 4 tsp of tomato paste, because it is what I had on hand.  You can buy the tomato paste in tubes, almost like toothpaste (yikes at the thought of confusing tomato paste with toothpaste!) and it keeps very well.  
Red pepper flakes, basil, and thyme - If you have fresh variations of any of these, use a bit more than called for.  Again, anything dried will be much stronger than anything fresh.  
If you don't like one or all of these, skip them - it wont hurt anything.  
The tiny bit of red pepper flakes are really good, and add a richness to the sauce rather than the "heat" that you might expect.  

2 - Over medium heat, cook the stuff above until it gets thicker, and "reduces" to almost half.  You will want to stir it a good bit partly so that you can watch for the consistency to change, but also because it smells so incredibly that you will enjoy standing close to it!  Here is a not so "air brushed" photo of what it will look like...

Keep in mind, I used tomato paste instead of sun-dried tomatoes, and because I was making 2 pounds used a pan with high sides.

3 - Now, add the LEMON JUICE and HEAVY CREAM - and again, let it cook down to where it is thick and rich.
Lemon Juice - I had fresh lemons and used that, but lemon juice is readily available in bottles and cute little plastic lemons.  
Heavy Cream - I did use heavy cream here, but if you have "Half and Half" or some whole milk, even a bit of cream cheese would do.  I would NOT use fat free or  low fat milk here.  

4 - Just before you add the crab claws, add the butter and this is the point where it is important to stir consistently if you want it to be pretty.  If you don't stir enough here the sauce will "break" which simply means that the butter will not absorb into the sauce.  If this happens, it will still taste wonderful, but might not look as creamy.  Here is what my sauce looked like just before adding the claws;

Again - not a "model quality" photo, but you are getting the real thing here.

5 - Now, toss the crab claws into the sauce, and delicately move them around so that they all kind of rotate through the liquid.  I alternated tossing them with a heat proof spatula and shaking the pan a bit so that I wasn't tearing them up.  
Let's be real here - when you see a chef toss a pan of something effortlessly - it is because they have a lot of experience, and probably cleaned up a lot of flaming messes! 
 They do not take long to cook.  With large claws, no longer than 5 minutes, and with small claws, start looking for them to be done around 3 minutes.  

6 - I like to serve them "fondue" style and turn them out onto a large platter.  You can put them into individual bowls if that works better for your setting.  Top them with FRESH GRATED PARMESAN, and PARSLEY.  Serve with a fresh, hot, bread - believe me, at the bottom of the dish will be this irresistible mesh of crab and sauce, and having the bread will  keep people from licking the bowl.  
Fresh Grated Parmesan - I know that they make Parmesan cheese that comes in a can.  DONT use that here.  Buy it already grated, or grate it yourself - it makes a world of difference.  
Parsley - Meh.  If you have it, use it.  It is really just a garnish and makes for a pretty presentation.  I can promise you that once people get the first smell and taste of these, they won't remember if there was a garnish or a monkey on top of the plate!

Now - if you are like me and made way too many, here is a left over tip.  Strip the remaining crab meat off, and put it into the sauce.  You might want to (with clean hands) poke around and make sure that there are no shells left.  Put it into a plastic container and refrigerate.  When you want a little "appetizer"  add a little bit of cream cheese and heat for a WARM CRAB DIP that is spectacular.  If it is too thick, add a little bit of milk or cream to thin.   OR - if you are having steaks or simple fish fillets, warm up the crab/sauce left overs and serve them over the simple grilled or broiled meat for an outrageous meal that will look like you have a famous chef in your kitchen.  No one ever has to know that it was "leftovers"!

So, I've finally gotten through my first blog post.  I hope that you will try these, and impress the tastebuds off of someone!  Most of all, enjoy the experience and don't sweat the details.  Cook with someone you love, or surprise them with the beautiful smell of wine, butter, and garlic when they come home.  I would love to hear how it goes...