Friday, May 18, 2007

Dungeness Crab Salad with Cucumber Jelly, Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette, and Frisée Lettuce

I know, I know... this was supposed to be a Dungeness Crab Salad. But, but... but... I live in Maryland. You know, like, where blue crabs rule the world? I felt like I might suffer from a serious mo-fo IRS audit if I use crab other than Maryland crab, so that's what I used in this dish, which was actually quite easy and made me happy that summer is on its way. Every summer whenever I make crabcakes here at home, I usually make a really fresh extra-cucumber tzatziki to go with them, and that's what this dish reminded me of. Let's get started. Here's the mise:

First up? The cucumber jelly. Dudes, I made MY OWN cucumber juice. I KNOW. I am so awesome. I rough-chopped the cucumber, liquefied it in the blender and strained it twice and wouldn't ya know, it made exactly a cup of cucumber juice? I rock.

I saved a bit of the whole cucumber and made cuke diamonds with it. They look more like cucumber parallelograms, but I'm okay with that:

Next, I soaked a sheet and a quarter of gelatin in cold water for about five minutes, then dissolved it in a bowl over a pot of hot water:

When it was dissolved, I added the cucumber juice, removed it from the heat and made sure it was mixed well. The French Laundry Cookbook instructs you to pour 2-3T of the gelatin mixture into the bottom of shallow serving bowls. I don't have any of those, so I improvised and used the plates so many of you seem to like. I covered the bottom with the gelatin, added in the cucumber parallelograms, and the small sprigs of dill and let all six plates chill in the fridge for a little over an hour:

The plate up front with the heap o' dill? Mine. I love dill as much as I love garlic and bacon. And lobster. And Stephen Durfee, my new best friend. More on that later.

I knew the neighbor girls and I were getting together for our regular Friday afternoon cocktails, so once the plates had chilled and the gelatin was set, I called and gave them the ten-minute warning to get their butts over here to try this dish. In the meantime, I got the crab salad ready, which involved whipping some heavy cream to just before it got to the stiff-peak stage (>snerk<), then added some fresh-ground salt, white pepper and wholegrain mustard:

I put the crabmeat in a separate bowl and folded in just enough of the whipped cream mixture to bind it. Next, I tossed the baby arugula with about 3T of shredded daikon radish and a wee bit of olive oil Oh, and even though the recipe headline says there's Frisée in this dish, ain't no thang. The ingredients list suggests baby arugula, baby beet greens, or amaranth, so I went with arugula because I love it so:

It's time to plate. See how easy this was? No steeping or poaching in butter or making movies about annoying Canadian singers.

Here we go... first, a heaping spoonful of crabmeat (I decided not to use the 2" ring mold option because I was hungry and wanted to get this on the table so we could enjoy our afternoon):

Then, for the final step, I topped it with the arugula/radish mixture:

It was a semi-hit with the kids and the adults loved it. Would I make this again? Probably not this exact recipe, but I'd adapt it as a canapé somehow. I love the taste of crab and cucumber together, and the cucumber definitely balanced the richness of the crab salad. I'm a big fan of wholegrain mustard, so that added a nice zip to this dish... otherwise, I think it might've been slightly bland. I also added some salt and pepper to the arugula/daikon radish mix because it needed it. I also love radishes, so I was happy to have that be a part of it, as well.

Before I go, let me take a moment to tip my hat (or just toss my hair) to Mr. Stephen Durfee, the pastry chef at The French Laundry when the French Laundry Cookbook was released. You may remember that I busted on him here. Mr. Durfee got in touch with me this week to tell me he heard about the site, has been reading it, and wanted to let me know that while he was the man behind the creation of the dreaded Candied Apple annoyance, he is also responsible for the only dessert I would ever take a bath in, the Cream of Walnut Soup, as well as the amazing Strawberry Shortcakes. He was incredibly funny in his message and the mere fact that he reached out to get in touch with me says to me that he is definitely a stand-up guy. So, with that, I can now say I love Stephen Durfee, and we are going to get married and raise little Candy Apple babies and... oh... yeah, that's so not happening. But seriously, Stephen Durfee? You're alright in my book. FOR NOW.

Up Next: Verjus Sorbet with Poached Peaches or Strawberry Terrine (Verjus is hard to find here in DC -- if you know where I can buy some, email me!)

Brands Used:
Cucumber and daikon radish from Wegmans
Gelatin sheets from King Arthur Flour
Crabmeat from the great state of Maryland
Organic Valley cream
Delouis organic whole grain mustard
Baby arugula from TPSS Co-op

Music to Cook By: Soundtrack to South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut; because I am twelve, apparently, and still laugh at the song about Kyle's mom. And, all night I've been singing "What Would Brian Boitano Do" and that's not annoying AT ALL. I haven't been singing "Blame Canada" though, which is interesting given my previous post. I will also 'fess up to listening to some DeBarge during the process. And not just regular old DeBarge, El DeBarge and "Who's Johnny," if you must know. Whew. I feel better getting that off my chest.


Anonymous said...

Of course you had to use Maryland crab, anything else would be sacrilege. Very funny post and great colors as usual.

Leah said...

Wow, what a great idea for a blog. I think it looks like you did great with this dish!
Check out my blog btw,

Anonymous said...

sally forth is correct. If you had used Dungeness, there would be rioting among your neighbors.

I'm jealous of your dill.(Ooooh nasty!) The dill you get around here looks wilty and thin.

Everything looks delish, as always!

Aunt Jenny said...

Dude, I did the English subtitling for the "South Park" DVD, and I can tell you that my fellow captioneer and I were doubled over laughing through the whole damn thing, MOST ESPECIALLY the "Kyle's Mom" song and "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"... and we're both smart, sophisticated folks. Fret not about your music choices.

SO... as to verjus: I've never found it locally, but have had excellent success with the stuff from these purveyors:

pdxblogmommy said...

I live in the land of Dungeness Crab. But there's something to be said for the Maryland Blue crabs. I have a soft spot in my heart for those things. Part of it, I think, is the experience of eating them. We don't do Dungeness the same way out here. Nor have I really had very good prepared Dungeness crab. So I'm all for your swapping.

And, while I think those plates are awesome, I'm pretty sure I know what I'm getting you for your next birthday.

Regardless, it looks delightful and fresh and THANK GOODNESS no frisee. I can't stand that stuff. (Forgive my missing accent there...)

Anonymous said...

Another post, another funny read. :)

Glad you made your peace -- and then some -- with Durfee. He actually is quite a generous chef... And I'd rather eat that yummy cream of wheat dessert than crab mixed with, um, whipped cream any time... though I am inordinately intrigued by the cucumber juice.

And oooh, I've been wanted to use Verjus for such a long time, but I've never gotten around to buying it...

shuna fish lydon said...

Grant Aschatz created this dish. It was lovely to behold, even as all the dishes sat on a speedrack in the walk-in cooling. I loved the tiny flat cucumber diamonds in the gelle and i was always wondering what the diners thought when it went to them.

yes, it was a much much smaller portion at TFL but I must say if I could climb into your house through this iMac portal I would steal one of those plates for myself.

How can I be your neighbor?

Anonymous said...

About six months ago, Dean and Deluca (Georgetown) had verjus. Ridiculously expensive for verjus but right about on track for Dean and Deluca.

For a more permanent supply (and there are so many good things to do with it that you might eventually want a better supplier than D and D) is

Anonymous said...

Where are those adorable plates from?!

Alice Q. Foodie said...

Man, I wish I was your neighbor! Actually, this almost sounds doable - unlike the candy apple thingamajig you wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I am loving your hilarious posts!!

Anonymous said...

Just as I was going to defend frisee (dental floss, indeed!), I now know you’re wise in your aversion. Gabbing with husband while trimming a head of frisee with scissors I was dismayed to notice I’d cut off a lovely ellipse of knuckle skin from my left index finger. Just all the slack stuff you need to flex--without it one is quickly down to the nuts & bolts of the inner finger. Told DH to stuff the duck in the warming oven and be sure to turn off the lentils and off we fled to his office (luckily he’s a surgeon). 7 stitches and 45 minutes later we were back eating our frisee-less dinner and I’m learning how to type peg-leg style with an enormous splint.

Here above SF Bay Navarro Vineyards offers various verjus varietals if you can find nothing closer.

Carol Blymire said...

All: thanks for the kind words. This was really good, and I think I'd do it again.

Shuna: you can be my neighbor anytime.... although with your Durfee peace-brokering skillz, maybe you should go work for the UN. :)

Samantha: the plates are by Laurie Gates and I got 'em at TJ Maxx about six months ago.

Anonymous: Due to your frisee-related injury, I am automtically appointing you to the board of directors for my Frisee Sucks club. Poor thing....