Celebrate the Chinese New Year with Crab

For those of you who aren’t already aware, today (February 10, 2013) is Chinese New Year!

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Lion dancers in Seattle’s Chinatown, photo by Joe Mabel

Chinese New Year is a very important traditional Chinese holiday honoring deities and ancestors and it  is celebrated with lots of great food like fish and dumplings. Dungeness crab is a Chinese delicacy.  In fact, most of the crab Zed catches on our boat is sold and shipped to China.  On this Chinese New Year I thought it would be appropriate to post a Chinese recipe for Dungeness crab.  (Also, I just love Chinese cuisine!)

This is a simplified recipe for Ginger- Scallion Crab. Traditionally one would start with live crabs, but because it is so much easier to find cooked crab in markets in the United States, my recipe starts with cooked crab.  Make sure you give your crab a sniff before you buy it.  It should smell fresh and sweet, and not fishy or funky!  I always trust my nose when it comes to buying seafood.

Ginger-Scallion Dungeness Crab

  • 2 – whole Dungeness crab, cooked
  • 1 – bunch of scallions (green onions), cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly (about 10-12 rounds)
  • 2 or 3 – cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 – TBSP vegetable oil
  • 3 – TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 – TBSP rice vinegar (rice wine, or a dry white wine will work too)
  • 1 – TBSP corn starch

Clean your crab and break it into sections.  Separate each leg, and then break each leg into two or three pieces.  This will make it easier to fit everything into your pan, and will also ensure that the flavors of the sauce get into more of the meat.  (You can even crack the larger leg and claw pieces a little with a mallet or crab cracker so that more of the sauce can get in)  If you aren’t sure what to do with a whole crab, you can ask your seafood market/counter to clean it for you. But it is a very simple process, and here is an instructional video on cleaning a Dungeness crab, just to prove it.

In a small bowl mix together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and cornstarch.  Set aside.

Heat up the oil (medium heat) in a large wok or deep pan.  Add ginger slices, garlic, and scallions.  Stir continuously for 3-5 minutes, or until everything smells delicious and looks softened.  Add the soy sauce mixture and stir, then toss in crab pieces.  Keep stirring, using a large spoon or ladle to constantly spoon the sauce over the crab as it cooks.  The crab is already cooked at this point, but you want to get the crab hot and get as much of the flavor into the meat as possible.  After a few minutes the sauce will be thickened and you can turn off the heat.  Pour the crab and sauce onto a platter and serve!

For a more authentic version of this recipe, visit the blog “Eddy’s Kitchen” and check out his Pan Fried Ginger and Green Onion Dungeness crab, 干炒薑蔥蟹

a cooked dungeness crab, waiting to be cleaned

a cooked dungeness crab, waiting to be cleaned

To usher in the Year of the Snake, I offer this traditional auspicious greeting that I feel is very appropriate for the Blue family this year:

一本萬利Yīběnwànlì – “May a small investment bring ten-thousandfold profits”

Happy Chinese New Year everyone, and welcome Year of the Snake!


The Best Crab Dip You Will Ever Eat!

I’m not joking. This recipe for crab dip is amazing and It has been serving us faithfully for many years now. This is a recipe that Zed has been making since before we started dating.  We made it together while we were dating.  We served it at our wedding.  We still make it for parties.  It is the real deal.

I believe that Zed first got the recipe from his old roommate, who got it from a cookbook called Kachemak Kitchens: A Taste of Homer, which is a compilation of recipes from restaurants and homes in Homer, Alaska. This recipe for Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip comes from Land’s End, a resort and restaurant in Homer. Over the years we have modified the recipe slightly to include more crab and more cheese (can’t go wrong with that).

This crab dip is the perfect appetizer for a holiday gathering and is sure to make you lots of new friends at a potluck.

this is the beauty I made dip out of today

this is the beauty I made dip out of today

For the crab in this recipe you can use any type of crab, but my personal favorite is Dungeness crab. I might be a little biased, but I think dungeness crab has the most flavorful meat of any crab I’ve ever tried. But feel free to use whatever type you have access to.

Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip
16 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded + 1/2 cup for topping
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
2 TBSP garlic, minced
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 cup artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
3 cups of crab meat
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Tabasco sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine cream cheese, mayo, and sour cream in a big bowl and mix until smooth. Add onions, garlic, scallions, pepper, Worcestershire  and Tabasco and mix thoroughly. Add 2 cups of Parmesan cheese, artichoke hearts and crab and stir gently to combine. Pour into a casserole dish, cover with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese (or enough to lightly cover the surface), and bake until bubbling and golden brown. Serve with sliced baguette.

bubbling and golden... perfect!

bubbling and golden… perfect!

Warning: This crab dip is not very healthy! It is really rich and creamy. I have no idea what the calorie count is, and frankly, I don’t want to know. This is a recipe I only make for special occasions – usually only for holidays – and I am of the philosophy that holidays are a special time when you should eat whatever the hell you want and not feel guilty. So eat this crab dip and enjoy it, dammit!

Ok, if you really want to make this recipe healthier you can substitute some of the ingredients. In place of the cream cheese, use reduced fat cream cheese. In place of the sour cream, use either fat-free Greek yogurt or light sour cream. Use half the amount of mayonnaise and half the amount of Parmesan cheese. It will still be delicious.

For Christmas this year we have a nice relaxing day planned of hanging out with family and friends and eating.  (And hopefully eating this crab dip.)  I love Christmas in our house because we are the only couple with little kids, so our extended families come to us!  That means no stressful holiday traveling and our kids get to wake up in their own house and sneak down stairs to see what Santa brought them.  We basically just enjoy each other’s company and each other’s food all day – basking in the warm glow of our children’s excitement.

What about you?  Does your family have any traditional holiday dishes you can’t live without?

After trying this recipe there is a good chance you’ll want to add it to your annual holiday menu too.  Make this crab dip and wait for the adoration to start pouring in.  Could it have been his crab dip that made me fall in love with Zed all those years ago?  It sure didn’t hurt, I’ll tell you that much!

Crab Spaghetti: Drowning my Sorrows with Food

Ok, I didn’t want to post anything until I actually had some good news to report, but I just realized it’s been a long time since my last post and I don’t want people to think I gave up on the blog.  So I’m posting an update with no good news.  Delays, delays, delays, and our boat is still in shipyard.  Frustrating, but I really think (fingers crossed) that it is almost done… for real this time… I swear.    The boat was sandblasted and primed before the clouds rolled in, so we are waiting for some sunshine and a fresh coat of cobalt blue paint.

Here she is, waiting for her makeover. Come on sunshine!!!

I really don’t want to talk about the boat or the crab season we are missing out on right now, so instead I’m going to post a crab recipe.  Because, how do I distract myself from unpleasant realities?  I eat!

This is a fairly simple recipe for a red spaghetti sauce, but with the addition of crab meat.  Delicious, trust me!

Crab Spaghetti

1/4 cup olive oil

1 medium sized onion, finely chopped

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

3/4 tsp crushed red chile flakes

2 tsp dried basil, or about 8 leaves of fresh basil, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano (or parsley)

1 tsp celery seeds (you can use celery salt if that’s all you have)

1/4 cup half and half

2 – 28 ounce cans of whole peeled tomatoes, undrained

1 pound spaghetti noodles

1 to 2  pounds cooked and cleaned crab meat

salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat, add onion, garlic, celery seeds, basil, oregano, and chile flakes.  Stir and cook until onions are soft and translucent, around 10 minutes.  Pour into a blender and add tomatoes (with the juice from the can) and half and half.  Puree until almost smooth (I like mine a little chunky still), then pour back into pan and continue cooking over medium heat for another 30-35 minutes.  Throw the crab meat in and cook for a couple more minutes, until the crab is heated through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add spaghetti noodles.  Cook noddles until al dente and drain.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and serve garnished with fresh chopped basil or parsley.

This is based on a recipe from Saveur magazine.  Here is the original recipe.

I wish I had photos to post of this delicious dish, but all it really looks like is spaghetti with red sauce.  It tastes WAY better than it looks.  You will just have to try it out and see for yourself.  If you live on the West coast, find yourself some fresh dungeness crab.

If you need a lesson on cleaning dungeness crab, watch this video from the F/V Refuge out of Newport, Oregon.


Dungeness Crab for the Holidays

In our family we are currently gearing up for the Dungeness Crab season and the Holiday season at the same time, so it is only natural that I am thinking up some crab recipes to serve at Christmas and New Years parties this year.  Dungeness crab might not be traditional Christmas fare, but it doesn’t need to be the main course – bite sized crab appetizers served with some bubbly would be a nice way to keep your guests happy (just the thought of it makes me happy!).

This is a very simple recipe that could be prepared quickly,

I recommend using english cucumbers.  Want to make them look prettier? -top each cucumber slice with a little leaf of dill or parsley.  Any type of small cracker would work, but if you want to make these gluten-free, use rice crackers.  I have quite a few friends and family members who are gluten intolerant, so I would make these with rice crackers.

I’m working on some more holiday seafood recipes, so stay tuned in the next couple weeks …

Eat More Seafood Part 3: Quick and Easy Recipes

This is my final post in my series “How to Eat More Seafood.”  My previous posts about working more seafood into your diet can be read here: How to Eat More Seafood: An Introduction, Eat More Seafood Part 1: What to Buy, and Eat More Seafood Part 2: You Can Afford It!

I get lots of questions from people about how to prepare seafood, and I know it can be intimidating if you aren’t used to cooking it (before I married a fisherman, I rarely cooked seafood because I was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with it).  So I’m providing some advice for those who don’t feel comfortable cooking seafood.  These are easy tips and recipes from the perspective of a mother (I need recipes to be easy and fast because I have to cook to the sounds of screaming, crying, whining, and an endless stream of questions like “what is that? Can we have pizza?  Why are you doing that?  Can I have this sharp knife?  Can I have candy?  What about this knife?”).  These are recipes that I actually use on a regular basis…

PASTA DISHES: Many types of fish, and pretty much all types of shellfish go great with pasta.  For example…

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  • Add a can of salmon, a can of clams, shrimp, or crab meat to any type of pasta sauce, red or white (it’s OK to use a jar of sauce, we don’t always have time to make our own!)
  • Make a simple sauce with olive oil, garlic, white wine, diced tomatoes (canned is fine) and parsley.   Throw in some shrimp or a can of clams, pour it over spaghetti or linguine and you’re good to go.
  • Add a can of salmon or tuna to macaroni and cheese.  My kids love this, so I add frozen peas to make it healthier.

BAKED or BBQ-ED: If you have any whole fish or a fillet of fish, there are endless ways to bake or BBQ it, just as long as you don’t overcook it.

  • If you are concerned about your fish drying out, make a foil envelope to enclose the fish in.
  • Put it on the BBQ on a piece of foil, or directly on the grate (skin side down), or in a pan in the oven (375° – 450° F).  Top it with any combination of herbs, onions, garlic and citrus
  • A classic combo is onions, lemon and dill (especially good on salmon).
  • Go Mexican with garlic, cayenne pepper, cilantro and lime.
  • Try Italian, with onions, garlic, sliced tomatoes, and parsley or oregano (feta cheese is greek, but it would go great with these flavors)
  • Spread a layer of pesto on your fillet, pop it in the oven, and when the fish is almost done, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on then finish cooking it to melt the cheese.
  • Most fish can benefit from a little olive oil or butter and a generous sprinkling of salt.
  • Check your fish regularly as it cooks and try to pry apart the layers with a fork.  If the layers flake apart easily and the meat looks more opaque than translucent, it’s done!

FISH TACOS: This is one of my favorite ways to eat mild white fish.  Just cut the fish up into chunks, salt it, and fry it in some olive oil (garlic is good too).  Put it in a warm corn tortilla with shredded cabbage or lettuce, chopped onions, cilantro and squeeze on some lime juice.  Deliciously simple!

BIVALVES: I LOVE clams and mussels!  I am also lucky that I live close to a shellfish farm that sells them at a really reasonable price, but I understand that not everyone has access to fresh, live bivalves.  But if you are so lucky, this is my favorite way to prepare them…

  • Heat a couple tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup white wine in a large frying pan or wide saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add as much chopped garlic as you want, more is better and you can’t really have too much.
  • Add a finely chopped tomato or a can of diced tomatoes.
  • Toss in a hand full of chopped parsley
  • Throw in a pound or two of live clams, put a lid on the pot and cook until all the clams open.  If one doesn’t ever open, throw it out, it was already dead.
  • Serve the clams and juice with a loaf of fresh bread.

Steamer clams, photo taken by Paul Keleher

Salmon Burgers: You can use cooked salmon if you have it, but I always use canned salmon, because it’s cheap and easy and I always have some in my pantry.

  • Mix one 7.5 oz can of salmon with,
  • One egg,
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs,
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion,
  • Juice and zest from 1/2 lemon,
  • A tablespoon or so of chopped parsley or dill
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Form into 2 patties and fry over medium heat in a little olive oil for about 5 min on each side or until browned.

FIND MORE SEAFOOD RECIPES!: I have these sites bookmarked on my computer, so I can reference them when I’m planning meals.  (in my sidebar I have more links to sites I use for recipes)

So that’s pretty much it… cooking seafood can be a pretty simple affair.  Simple enough to become part of your regular meal plan, with enough cheap options to find a spot on your grocery list, and with enough sustainable choices that you can feel good about supporting. Seafood is so important for your overall health, there really aren’t any good reasons not to eat more of it.

I would love to try and answer any questions you might still have about cooking seafood.  I’m not an expert by any means, but I love cooking, and I love talking about cooking, so shoot me a question.  If I don’t know the answer, there’s a good chance I know a fisherman who does.