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Crab Shell Stock: worth the odor

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So I've been indulging in home-steamed Dungeness crab about an average of once a wk. Prices in my area of NoCal keep dropping, which makes it all too easy to feed my addiction.

Thanks to hound Gordon Wing, I learned how to not waste the crab 'schmoo' (scroll for previous post). But wanted to find some use for all those crab shell bits I'd been tossing away.

Been keeping my nose in Tony Bourdain's new book, and leave it to him to convince me that a serious home cook needs to use homemade stock for optimal results. So when I had remnants from 2 whole crabs the other night, wondered why I couldn't try my hand at crab stock. Sure, most online recipes called for the whole crab, meat and all, but wouldn't hurt to try it w/o the meat.

What I did based on instinct and some experience: put a little olive oil in bottom of stock pot; added crab shell bits after getting rid of unwanted parts (no fallopian tubes, thank you!); sauteed for a min.; added splash of sherry and then lots of H20 til water level exceeded contents; added aromatics on hand: quartered onion, carrot, fennel stalks and leaves, fresh parsley, bay leaf. When came to boil, added good amt. of salt and some pepper. Simmered for 1.5 hrs. and adjusted seasoning before taking off heat. Strained and rendered about 15 cups of fragrant crab stock. Crab flavor was subtle but present; fennel was more dominant.

Used the stock for an improvised risotto w/ shrimp, peas, and mint last night and it was the BEST risotto that I've ever made...Tony B. is right. Can also see myself using in: Tony B.'s fennel and tomato soup; seafood stews; certain cream soups and chowders.

Only downside is that place smells a bit fishy w/ all that crab and shrimp, but "it stinks..." thread should help w/ that.

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  1. I love stock from shellfish "bones". In the summer, when we have lobster in Maine, I save the shells to make a stock that I use for a sauce with fresh pasta. In fact, for me, the sauce from the shells is better than the lobster itself. I wish crabs were as plentiful in New York so that I could follow your recipe.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Nancy

      Your pasta sauce made w/ lobster stock sounds wonderful. Don't need a step-by-step recipe, but can you give me an idea of how you make the pasta sauce?

      I'm a total convert of homemade stocks now; of course, I'll still use my store-bought stuff for everyday cooking, but it's icing on the cake when one can make their own. Love the idea of extracting all the goodness out of a product before it goes to the dumpster.

      Although Dungeness are not as available on the East coast, don't you folks have other types of crab over there?

      1. re: Carb Lover

        For a lobster stock, I first saute a mirepoix of carrots, celery, and leeks in butter until soft. Then I add some white wine, and reduce to a glaze. Then I add the broken up lobster shells, and saute for a few minutes. If I remember, sometimes I add a tablespoon or so of good cognac and reduce some more. Then I add water, whole pepper corns, a bit of fleur de sel, and a few sprigs of thyme. I simmer for about 45 minutes. Next, I strain the stock through a fine sieve and reduce some more over low heat. To make it into a sauce, in the summer I add freshly roasted corn and a bit of peeled, seeded and diced garden tomatoes and enrich the sauce with butter. I finish the sauce with fresh herbs and use with homemade fettucine. I used to add cream to the sauce, but now, for me, I prefer the delicacy of the sauce without it. As long as the stock is reduced enough after it is strained it will be most flavorful and taste like the essence of lobster. A great book that has some wonderful recipes with lobster stock is Alice Water's Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook (1982). This book taught me a lot about technique.

        1. re: Nancy

          Thank you, Nancy. That sauce sounds ethereal. Sounds like only homemade pasta will do in this case. I must try this sometime. Been meaning to get my hands on one of AW's cookbooks. Saw a copy of the one you mentioned at my local used bookshop...will take a closer look.

    2. If you want a more concentrated 'Fume', use less water (not even to cover), and no fennel (just bay and peppercorns). Cook for about 45 minutes, to steam the flavor out of the shells. You'll get a perfect base for an intense bisque, or Pan roast a la Grand Central Oyster Bar. One of my favorite holiday tricks.

      3 Replies
      1. re: lala

        "...or Pan roast a la Grand Central Oyster Bar"

        Thanks for the tips. I know about GCOB, but can you elaborate on their pan roasting method?

        1. re: Carb Lover

          "Pan Roast" is actually a soup from the Gods, involving large amounts of cream and butter. I've attached a recipe. It's lovely as is, but incredibly rich, so but to make a bisque, I adjust the recipe. I substitute my fume for the clam juice, increasing the amount, and decrease the amount of cream. You can use any seafood instead of, or in addition to the oysters (scallops are really good). I never put the toast in the bowl, though. Just play with it to taste. This is very popular at my house during the holidays.

          Link: http://www.aarpmagazine.org/food/Arti...

        2. re: lala

          Lydia Bastiach(sp.?) makes an amazing Lobster Bisque, where in she roasts the shells in the oven for an hour or two, low temp, then pours the cream right over the crusty bits and tempers in the refrigerator overnight. The next day sieves the cream clean, and uses this base for the bisque. On this note, I now roast all my shells, with a little olive oil and rock salt. Or, put the roasted shells into a low crock pot with a little water and leave on overnight, for freezer stock. It stinks, but becomes one of those smells that portends to something good coming.