With my ITP thesis ready to go, I finally got a chance to do some creative cooking again. Tonight I made a fried soft shell crab salad with a curry aïoli dressing. I improvised through this one (like most things I cook), so no exact measurements. I got the soft shell crabs (which are currently in season) from FreshDirect, and they were already cleaned, which saved me the scary task of cutting off the eyes of live crabs as demonstrated here by Mark Bittman of the NY Times.
Start with the aïoli dressing. Put in a blender:
1 raw egg (without the shell, silly!)
1 clove of garlic
2 chopped up cornichons
1 generous spoonful of Dijon mustard
1 shake of curry powder
1 dash of soy sauce
1 dash of Tabasco
1 heaping teaspoon of apricot jam (the sweetness offsets the intensity of the other flavors)
2-3 teaspoons of vinegar (I used a combo apple cider and rice wine vinegar that has been infused with jalapeños. I like to live a little on the wild side, so I chucked in a couple slices of the pickled jalapeños too
2-3 generous glugs (I know, this is hardly scientific) of grapeseed or other neutral oil
Blend everything together and season to taste. It should come out more like a thick salad dressing and less like a mayonnaise. If it’s too thick, add some water or more vinegar to taste. This makes a lot of dressing, so these measurements would be enough for 4-6 servings.
Now for the crab. Clean the crab if it didn’t come cleaned already. Rinse in some cold water and pat dry with some paper towels. Make a tempura-style batter by mixing flour, ice cold water, freshly ground black pepper, Tabasco, and fish sauce (plain old salt would work here too). The batter should be really cold and rather thin. Don’t over mix. Dip the crab in the batter and deep fry. It takes 2-3 minutes per side. When done, drain on some paper towels.
Tonight I served the crab on some heirloom tomatoes and Boston lettuce with the dressing drizzled on top. I had a glass of vinho verde to go with my delicious dinner, but an off-dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer would also probably work well with the curry flavor.
Below: Shiitake carbonara – my own creation. Super easy. Sauté some cubed pancetta in some olive oil, add a diced shallot and diced clove of garlic, some hot chili flakes, a pinch of pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika), 3 chopped shiitake, some herbes de provence, and plenty of black pepper. When things start to brown, turn off heat and whisk in 2 raw eggs, a handful of grated cheese (I used Manchego) and a bit of half and half or cream. Then add the cooked spaghetti and serve. That’s it. This would make a great brunch dish with some champagne, cava or prosecco. Or even a some of the 8-bit wine I still have around from last fall.
I was visiting family in Arizona for Thanksgiving weekend. I spent the Friday after Thanksgiving with my mom, aunt, and uncle making zongzi or Taiwanese tamales, a fitting description that reflects my Pacific Islander/Southwestern identity. 😉 The zongzi are based on my Taiwanese grandmother’s recipe, and includes sticky rice, peanuts, pork, fried shallots, dried shrimp, dried daikon, shiitake, and salty duck egg yolks wrapped in bamboo leaves. The bamboo-wrapped packages are then boiled and steamed. Yum!
I improvised this sweet potato gnocchi gratin for a night in with Elizabeth and Catherine.
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of milk
1 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon of pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 heaping tablespoon of white miso
1 half package of Neufchatel or cream cheese
2 handfuls of grated Gruyère
1 egg, beaten
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
6 fresh shiitake, chopped
2 roasted red or yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 large apple, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
Half package of membrillo (quince paste), chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 package of frozen sweet potato gnocchi
1 slice of whole wheat toast, blended into crumbs and sautéed in olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Make the Béchamel cheese sauce: melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the flour. Add the milk, herbs, and pimentón. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Whisk until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and mix in the miso and the cheese while the mixture is still hot.
Cook the vegetables: in a large (12 inch) cast iron pan or other oven-proof pan, heat up some olive oil and sauté the onions and garlic until they start to brown. Then add the shiitake and cook until lightly golden. Add the bell pepper and sauté for another minute or two. Turn off the heat and stir in the apples and the membrillo.
Cook the frozen gnocchi in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, until the just start to float. Drain and add the gnocchi to the vegetable mixture. The sauce will have cooled off slightly by now. Whisk in the egg and pour the mixture into the pan and mix.
Bake the gratin in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Add the bread crumbs on top for the last 10 minutes of baking.