Posts Tagged ‘seafood’

Cheat’s potted crab

7 April 2014

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I’ve been dreaming of potted crab since last October, when we left London for a few days during the fall vacation and drove South, on a pilgrimage of sorts, to places I’d often been as a child. We drove toward the sea through the meandering countryside, over detours of Ashdown Forest to my old school, our old house. In Brighton I couldn’t recall the fish and chips shop we always stopped at, though I remember the soggy chips, the flaky fish, the newspaper package sticky with vinegar and sea air, the grinding stones underfoot. The shop probably doesn’t exist anymore anyway.

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Later we walked across the Seven Sisters, but in between we stayed in what must indeed be one of the prettiest villages in Sussex. In that village there was a pub. And in that pub there was potted crab. I ordered it only once, but each subsequent night I bit my lips at not having asked for it again. It was the best thing they served, or rather, it was just plain great, without qualifiers.

Potted crab is characteristic of the kind of British food that I love. It is simple, traditional, and, at its best, stellar. It’s ideal pub fare, picnic food, and perfect for an apéro.

‘Potting’ is a preservation technique, that derives from medieval pies. Meats and fish were initially baked in crusts as a means of conservation (apparently a fairly coarse crust, not intended as part of the delicacy). Once cooked, the pocket of air left between the filling and crust was filled with a sealing layer of fat poured through a hole in the crust. Later, crusts were dispensed of completely by using reusable pots.

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Since that crab in the pub in the village in Sussex I’ve wanted to make it. It has taken me all these months and a split-second, spur-of-the-moment decision to make it. I cheated because I bought the crab meat. I have a very good fishmonger close by and as I mentioned, it was a last minute decision. Still, it was very good.

Cheat’s potted crab

250g butter

1 bay leaf

300g cooked crab meat (about 2/3 white meat, 1/3 dark meat)

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

Pinch sea salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

Chives

Melt the the butter slowly in a small saucepan with the bay leaf.

Place the crab meat in a medium sized bowl, add the lemon zest and juice, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour most of the melted butter into the crab meat, reserving about one quarter. Mix well.

Transfer the crab mixture to a bowl or glass terrine without packing it too much, smooth over the top. Coarsely cut a small handfull of chives over the crab and pour the remaining melted butter to seal (without the bay leaf). Keep in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 2 days.

Remove from the refrigerator about half an hour before using and serve with delicious bread.

It’s that easy!

Baked shrimp with lemon, rosemary, and tarragon

12 May 2011

It’s surprisingly easy to grow tarragon.

I had always thought of tarragon as a fragile herb because it is often wilted and usually bland when bought, but I discovered it is actually a low-maintenance hardy perennial that survives the New York winter. Alongside chives, tarragon is the first herb to come up in spring, year after year, and I think it’s worth growing, if only for that optimistic quality.

A classic French use for tarragon is with chicken, it also goes nicely with fish, and gives an acidulated kick to salads. This oven-baked shrimp, though, is itself almost reason enough to grow tarragon. I was inspired by a recipe found on Oui, Chef (which uses different herbs and spices, but the idea and cooking method are the same).

It’s absurdly delicious, and ridiculously easy.

***

Adapted from Herb and Lemon Baked Shrimp by Oui, Chef.

If you don’t happen to grow tarragon on your balcony, fresh thyme and 1/2 tsp cracked coriander seeds would go well, as shown in the original recipe (added early with the lemon, rosemary, and cracked pepper to flavor the oil).

1 lemon

1/2 tsp peppercorns

Good olive oil

Few sprigs fresh rosemary

1 lb (450 g) shrimp*

Few sprigs fresh tarragon

Coarse grey sea salt

*

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Trim the ends of the lemon, cut it in half lengthwise, place the halves cut side down on the board and cut into thin half moons. In a mortar, crack the peppercorns.

Pour enough olive oil to cover an ovenproof dish a generous 1/8 inch (1/4 cm) deep. Put the lemon slices in the oil reserving 4-5 very thin ones for later. Add the cracked pepper and the sprigs of rosemary. Put into the hot oven for about 15 minutes, until the oil is sizzling and fragrant.

Remove the dish from the oven, add the shrimp and tarragon, tossing them quickly in the fragrant oil, then sprinkle some coarse sea salt and place the few reserved slices of lemon on top and slide back into the oven.

Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. **Small shrimp are cooked practically as soon as they lose their translucence on the outside. Larger shrimp may take a couple minutes longer. (They will continue to cook when out of the oven.)**

Serve immediately, with a spoonful of the juices.

*Here in New York, nearly all shrimp has at some point been frozen. Usually, shrimp that is sold unfrozen is actually thawed. If the shrimp has been caught wild and never been frozen, it is specified. Therefore, unless very fresh wild shrimp is available, it is best to buy frozen shrimp and defreeze it at home just before cooking.


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