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Monday, September 5, 2011

Crabmeat Au Gratin

My sous chef Brady, and I set about to make this dish yesterday evening.  He knows more about kitchen techniques, fresh herbs and knife skills than some adults I know.  It was a nice project for us to do together.
This dish is PLENTY rich, so be sure and serve it along with something to cut that.  We had roasted baby asparagus spears and an heirloom tomato salad of sorts.
1 rib                celery, finely chopped
1                     shallot, finely chopped
1 strip             roasted red bell pepper (from a jar)
1/2 stick         butter
3 -4  Tbsp      all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups      heavy cream 
1/4 tsp            cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp            garlic powder
1/2 tsp            dried, ground mustard
1 tsp               worchestershire sauce
1 tsp               salt
2 Tbsp            cream sherry (optional)          
sprinkle          black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon  
sprinkle of paprika
16 oz              lump white crab meat               
4 oz                shredded cheddar jack cheese

Pick through the crabmeat to find any shells, and allow to drain in a colander while preparing the rest.

Find some cute kid with knife skills to chop your celery, shallot, and red pepper.  Small dice.
Melt butter in a skillet.  Add celery and shallots to the butter.

Cook on medium for a while until vegetables are soft (but not brown).

When vegetables are wilted and soft, add flour.  Cook for a while, stirring frequently until the "roux" is thick and bubbly and no longer has a raw flour taste.  To the roux, add all the seasonings:  salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic, mustard, worcestershire, roasted peppers and lemon.
Optional - add the creamed sherry.  It will look a little funky until you get it all stirred up and incorporated.

One you get the sauce smooth and silky, bring to a bubble again.  Then turn off the heat and add the crabmeat.  Stir gently to avoid breaking up the lumps.  Hopefully you can find bigger lumps than I had.  For the price, I was a bit disappointed.
Adjust final seasoning.

Spray casserole dish (or individual dishes) with cooking spray and gently fill them with the mixture.
Add the grated cheese on top. Tip - grate the cheese right before you use it.  Pregrated cheese oxidizes and tends to lose its flavor.  The larger the size of the cheese "chunk" that you buy, the more flavor!  (Thanks Mom!)

Sprinkle with a little paprika and bake at 350 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes (depending on the size of the casserole dish).
Top with sliced green onions.  Let sit about 10 minutes.

The tricky thing with this recipe is to make the white roux (basically a bechamel sauce) thicker than you think you will want it.  If you make it just perfect, something weird happens in that oven and it comes out runny.  

We decided that this would be great over a big rustic piece of Texas Toast - you know, the one with the garlic and cheese on top?... or over the top of a biscuit that was split in two. ... or as a dip with pita chips.  Mmmm.  It is fairly rich to eat by itself.

Food geek notes:
Crabs are decapod crustaceans which typically have a very short projecting "tail," or where the reduced abdomen is entirely hidden under the thorax. They are generally covered with a thick exoskeleton, and have a single pair of chelae (claws). 6,793 species are known. Crabs are found in all of the world's oceans. Additionally, there are also many freshwater and terrestrial crabs, particularly in tropical regions. Crabs vary in size from the pea crab, which is only a few millimeters wide, to the Japanese spider crab, who have a leg span of up to 4 meters.  Crabs make up 20% of all marine crustaceans caught and farmed worldwide, with over 1½ million tons being consumed annually.

Gratin is adapted from French cuisine and is a type of casserole dish that is covered with Béchamel sauce, and topped with buttered breadcrumbs or grated cheese and either baked or broiled, then served in its baking dish with a golden crust. Cooking au gratin is a technique - anything that can be sliced thin, layered with a cream sauce and baked is material for a gratin.

Looking for more great recipes from my blog?
Please visit my Recipe Index for tons of ideas you can cook with/for your family.  Here are just a few random recipes from my blog to get your curiosity going:

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