Monthly Archives: December 2017
I’m a Maryland girl, so crab is in my blood. I grew up on summer crab feasts, the Maryland version of a New England clambake. Imagine a picnic table covered with newspaper and filled with whole steamed crabs coated in Old Bay Seasoning. It’s a hands-on meal, where you crack the shells open and painstakingly pick the meat from the crabs. The seasoning clings to your fingers, conveying a spicy burn with every bite. It’s communal and festive and delicious!
For fancier occasions, there was crab Imperial, typically restaurant fare, though my mother was known to make it on occasion. Lump crabmeat is mixed with mayonnaise, the requisite Old Bay Seasoning, stuffed into a crab shell (or a baking dish), topped with breadcrumbs and cheese, and baked until bubbly. What an indulgence.
And of course, life wouldn’t be complete without Maryland crab cakes. While hardly everyday fare, crab cakes were a special occasion dinner we ate at home, the kind of thing you might pick for Mom to make for your birthday. Crab meat is bound together with egg and mayo, and of course that Old Bay Seasoning, and formed into patties, then fried or baked.
Clearly, my relationship with crab leans towards serving it warm with Old Bay.
This week’s recipe choice for Cook the Book Fridays went in another direction. Fennel, radish, orange, and crab salad is served cold and combines a set of flavors I’d describe more as California than Maryland.
This recipe fit perfectly into my weekly cooking schedule. Our tradition for many years is to spend Christmas Eve with friends celebrating the Italian Feast of Seven Fishes. This year we had 10 different kinds of fish or seafood. Typically, Howard makes a gravlax and I make mini-crab cakes. (This year, I also brought a batch of brandade.) Knowing I would be making this salad, I set aside some of the crab meat before I mixed up the crab cakes.
I loved the vibrant colors in the salad. Though the fennel and crab were neutral, the rich burgundy leaves of radicchio, the pink radish skins, the green flecks of parsley, and, at least on my plate, the accents of orange segments created a festive palette. It tasted good too. The salad is in the “First Courses” chapter of My Paris Kitchen, but a larger portion served for lunch makes a healthy, light, yet satisfying meal after the many indulgences of December.
My only complaint is with the quantity of dressing. As instructed, I tossed the crab and parsley with the dressing. However, after I spooned the mixture over the greens and other vegetables, no dressing remained in the bowl to spoon over said greens and other vegetables, leaving them a little bit dry. I was too lazy, but simply doubling the amount of dressing would have solved the problem. To be sure to have some left, I’d mix half (the original amount) in with the crab and reserve the other half to drizzle over the vegetables before adding the crab mixture to the plate.
Wishing you a Happy, Healthy, Peaceful New Year in 2018! Happy Cooking!
Duck confit is a favorite in our house. It’s usually Howard’s job to make it. Duck confit is one of the first of his sous-vide projects that he perfected. As ridiculous as it sounds, homemade duck confit, stashed in the freezer, is often “emergency food” (i.e. what’s for dinner when you don’t think there’s any food). Just thaw a pair of legs, whip up a pot of lentils plus a green vegetable or a salad, and a spectacular dinner is on the table in no time.
This recipe couldn’t have been simpler. First, you use a needle to prick through the fat of the duck legs. Then rub the duck legs with an aromatic mixture of gin, allspice, nutmeg, and salt and allowed to sit overnight on top of a couple of bay leaves and halved garlic cloves. The next day, wipe down the duck legs and then slow roast them in a low oven, no added fat. As the duck cooks, the fat starts to fill the baking dish, submerging the legs. Finally, the duck legs crisp up when the oven temperature is raised for the last bit of cooking.
I didn’t pick the right baking dish. David wants the legs to be snug. I had one pan where the legs fit snugly, but not really in one layer. In the next bigger pan, the legs had more room, not what I’d call snug. I opted for the smaller dish, but I think that was a mistake. The parts of the legs that were immersed in the fat melted off the bone. The other parts were tasty, but just not as tender. I think the trick is for all the legs to lie flat so they all can bathe in the duck fat, but with minimal extra room so that fat is as deep as possible.
The duck was also a little salty. I wiped the rub off before cooking. Howard thinks I should have rinse the legs as he does.
Despite being a little salty, the “fake” duck legs were delicious. In a throw down, I suspect Howard’s version would win. However, I like knowing I can make an excellent low-tech rendition on my own without investing in gobs of the requisite duck fat.
Speaking of duck fat, the rendered fat was the most beautiful golden color and perfectly clear. I’ve saved it for pan-frying or roasting potatoes.
Coincidentally, I went to a book signing for David Lebovitz’s new book L’Appart. It was held at a location of Flour, one of my favorite local bakeries for sweets. The line was long, but there were snacks – delicious Flour pastries. There was a crowd, so I only spent a minute or so with David. He signed his new book for me as well as my copy of My Paris Kitchen. He was very charming and down to earth. When I told him that I was cooking through My Paris Kitchen with a group of friends, he smiled and said, “I did that too”. Of course, I forgot to ask someone to take a picture…
I also met Joanne Chang, owner of Flour. Her newest cookbook is savory not sweet, recipes from Myers+Chang, the Boston restaurant she owns with her husband. Being more of a cook than a baker, I added this book to my collection and was able to have her sign my book. Again, no picture.