Episode 85 – “Crustacean Nation III: Feeling Crabby”

Posted: August 21, 2017 in Season 7
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As I type, my beloved Coonhound, Hitcher, lies next to me. He was diagnosed with inoperable cancer a few weeks ago. He has been my constant sidekick since we found him, as an abandoned puppy, on a roadside 10+ years ago. This news has been tough – very, very tough. Once again, I will use this Good Eats project to distract myself.

As the daughter and granddaughter of Marylanders, I have had my share of crab over the years. Growing up, a trip to Grandma and Granddaddy’s was not complete without a crab dinner (or 3!). Whether it was a trip to a local seafood restaurant, a family crab picking session around Grandma’s table, or a plate of Grandma’s amazing homemade crab cakes, crab was something we ate early and often. Yes, this was an episode I eagerly anticipated.

Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs

Alton’s preparation of crab legs was first in this episode. When purchasing crab legs, it is best to buy frozen legs (frozen crab has already been cooked), thawing them overnight in the refrigerator at home; just be sure to allow the moisture to drain away from them as they thaw, and consume any thawed crab within 24 hours. Alaskan king crab legs are large, so you can allot two per person.

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Alaskan king crab legs.

Working with three legs at a time, break/cut each leg into sections at the joints. Wrap the segments in two layers of damp paper towels, along with a sprig of fresh dill.

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Alaskan king crab legs, broken into segments and topped with fresh dill.

Wrap the entire bundle tightly in plastic wrap, and microwave it for two minutes on high power; the goal here is to re-heat, rather than re-cook the crab.

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Alaskan king crab legs, broken into segments, and topped with fresh dill. Wrapped in damp paper towels and plastic wrap, the whole bundle heads into the microwave.

Let the heated crab legs rest in their bundles while you microwave any remaining packages of crab. Serve the legs with ghee, which just happens to be the next recipe in this episode.

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Steamed crab legs, served with ghee.

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Alton’s crab leg method is outstanding. It takes almost no time to prepare an amazing meal, using this method. If you want to have crab legs at home, this is the way to do it.

Ghee

What goes better with crab than butter? As mentioned above, Alton recommends serving his crab legs with ghee. To make Alton’s ghee, melt a pound (I did 1/2 pound) of unsalted butter over low heat.

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Melting unsalted butter over low heat.

As soon as the butter has liquefied, increase the heat to medium.

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Liquefied butter. Increasing the heat to medium.

Continue to cook the butter over medium heat until it finishes foaming.

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Butter, foaming for the first time.

When the foaming has ceased, increase the heat to high and wait for the butter to foam a second time. Watch the pan carefully, as the butter can easily burn.

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Butter, foaming for the second time.

When your ghee is ready, the pan will have brown bits on the bottom and the butter will have darkened slightly. Strain the ghee into a clean container and serve.

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Strained ghee.

Ghee is a perfect accompaniment for crab legs, and Alton’s explanation of how to make ghee is super easy. If you prep crab legs at home, be sure to make some ghee also!

Marinated Crab Salad

Alton’s third crab recipe is for a marinated crab salad. I suppose you could just purchase crab meat for this, which is how the online recipe is written, but what fun would that be? Instead, in the episode, Alton hand picked the meat from two Dungeness crabs. Thankfully, I was able to find whole Dungeness crabs at a new local store.

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Whole Dungeness crab.

If you have never picked a crab before, here are Alton’s instructions:

  1. Flip the crab upside down.
  2. Use a screwdriver to pry off the apron.
  3. Holding the crab over a sink, pry off the back of the crab.
  4. Rinse the inside of the crab.
  5. Pull off any gray gills, discarding them.
  6. Twist off the legs.
  7. Break the remaining central core in half and pull out as much meat as you can from the tiny compartments.
  8. Crack each leg and scoop out the meat.

My crabs had already been prepped through step 5, so I just had to get the meat out.

Once you have your crab meat, it is time to make the marinade for the salad. Combine in a large Ziplock bag:  1 C olive oil, 1 C red wine vinegar, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 C chopped parsley, 1/4 C fresh tarragon, 1 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

Use an immersion blender to thoroughly emulsify the marinade. Add your crab meat to the marinade, pushing any excess air out of the bag. Refrigerate the crab for 4-8 hours.

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Marinade and crab in plastic bag.

Serve the crab mixture over mixed greens with lemon wedges.

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Marinated crab salad, served over greens.

This was a light summer entrée that we enjoyed on our deck. While tasty, I did feel that the delicate flavor of the crab was a little overpowered by the marinade. To me, crab is so good on its own (see the crab leg recipe above) that I would tend toward recipes that allow the crab to shine more.

Crab Fritters

Crab fritters were Alton’s last recipe in this episode, and he did use purchased crabmeat for this one. In the episode, he used a 50/50 combination of lump and special crabmeat. Since I was only feeding two of us, I used one 8-ounce container of jumbo crabmeat.

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8 ounces of crab meat.

To begin, place a rack on a sheet pan for draining and heat 2 1/2 quarts of canola oil to 375 degrees over medium heat.

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Canola oil, heating to 375.

Meanwhile, combine 1 C lump crab meat, 1 C special crab meat, 1/2 C mayo, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and 1/2 t pepper.

Scoop the crab mixture with a 1-ounce ice cream scoop, rolling the balls in Panko breadcrumbs.

Alton tells you to fry the balls for 5-7 minutes, or until they are golden, but I found that my fritters were done in 3-4 minutes.

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Fritters, added to hot oil.

I served my fritters with lemon wedges.

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Crab fritters.

Alton’s crab fritters were pretty darn delicious, as they had little “filler” and loads of crab. The Panko breadcrumbs gave a crispy, crunchy shell to the creamy crab/mayo filling. These are a definite great alternative to the classic crab cake.

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