Blue Crab Pasta Sauce
I was down at the pier last weekend and started talking to a guy fishing. He had 4 blue crabs he had caught. I asked him what he was going to do with them - he said put them in a red sauce over pasta. I've been thinking about it ever since. How do you do this? Do you just make a traditional marinara sauce and simmer the crabs in it. How long? What kind of cleaning do you have to do with the crabs? Do you eat the crabs or are they just a flavoring agent? If you eat teh crabs - any tips on making them easier to eat - they can be pretty messy. I haven't found much on the web - a couple of recipes that didn't offer much info. Any other books or resources anyone would reccommend where I can find out more about this pasta sauce would be appreciated. Thanks.
Of of my favorite pasta with crab dishes is from a restaurant in Raleigh called 518 West and the dish is simply called "The Crab". Its red pepper papardelle with a dill cream, mushrooms, bacon, scallions and about a TON of lumb crab piled on top. Its sublime.
I dont have the recipe, but Id imagine a decent version would be fairly easy to replicate. Make a dill cream sauce, saute some wild mushrooms and bacon or pancetta in a little olive oil, chop some scallions, buy a pound of jumbo lump backfin and theres dinner!
I do crabs with fresh vegetables instead of marinara sauce because I think the flavor of the marinara overwhelms the crabmeat.
Throw the crabs in a pot with a little water, cover and steam. When they're cool enough to handle, clean them, removing the backs, mouths, gills, etc. I use a paring knife to cut the legs out like cutting eyes out of potatoes - this separates them from the meat so that when they're cooking in the sauce, most of it will fall out. Break the bodies in half.
I sauté the usual mirepoix veggies in olive oil and then add the crab bodies with some chopped fresh tomatoes. I like some fennel seed. Let it simmer for a few minutes to blend all the flavors, tossing to coat the crabs with the sauce. We usually serve this with linguini or fettucini. Messy. Most of the crabmeat does fall out of the crab bodies but you may have to pick some with your hands.
The recipe is always pretty ad hoc so if I have some zucchini or green beans, they can get thrown in. We've added shrimp, mussels, clams or fish to make a more substantial meal.
The less time you cook the tomatoes, the fresher the sauce tastes and the more you can taste the crab.
This is the way my family does it:
Take crabs, remove apron, top shell, gills, mustard and face. You should just have the lower body with the legs. Cut in half down the middle, so you have two sides, each with legs. Throw these in your marinara sauce and simmer for 30 minutes. Eat the sauce, which will now be flavored with crab. You can try to eat the crab too, but it will be overcooked.
I have yet to find a way to make eating blue crabs easier or less messy. Lots of newspaper, paper towels and patience. We never eat them as a meal...usually more as an appetizer, because it takes so many to fill you up and it takes so long to get the meat out when you pick them like my family does (get every single piece of meat...no waste!).
Oh how I miss summers at the Delaware beach!