Tuesday, July 29, 2008
JUDY'S CRABS AND SPAGHETTI
The Crab Guy makes these adorable crab boards. They're not only cute, but also practical. There's no better surface on which to crack open crabs. If you are interested in purchasing crab boards, please leave a comment at the end of the post with info on how to reach you. Sets ($26.95 plus shipping) include one genuine hardwood board, mallet and cup for butter or vinegar. Knives are extra. There are no red boards left. The new board has an etched crab. The crab is also etched onto the mallet.
The Crab Guy has been catching a lot of crabs in his Pamlico County crab trap. Sunday morning he caught 18 more beautiful blue crabs which he gave to a friend because we are so overloaded with crabs. We emptied our freezer of last week's crabs for Sunday's crab feast of crabs and spaghetti and steamed crabs. We rounded out the meal with Guy's Caesar salad and my Peach Cream Pie Glace. We were all happy campers Sunday night. (We were joined in our crab feast by our photographer friend and his wife. He is responsible for the great photos here. Thanks, Tom!)
This sauce is all about the tomatoes. Buy San Marzano tomatoes. Yes, they're expensive. But they are oh, so worth it. You will taste the difference, I promise. I only had one can of San Marzano tomatoes on hand, so I used a can of Cento also. They didn't ruin the dish, because Cento is a good brand of tomatoes. But tasting from the can, there was a pronounced difference. Cento was more acidic, while San Marzano was sweeter with no aftertaste. The Crab Guy was suspicious of the sauce. Being an Italian, he wanted his aunt's sauce which is smooth. He kept checking the sauce as it was cooking, taking little tastes here and there. "I hope this won't be too thick," he moaned. (He likes a thin sauce.) When it was served, he and everyone else at the table said it was magnificent! 10 out of 10 for this one. Depending on how many people you want to feed, and how many crabs you want to cook, you could get several batches of sauce. We decided we only wanted to cook 8 crabs in the sauce and the rest we wanted to steam. So I removed 2 quarts of sauce before I added the crabs. This way, I have 2 jars of marinara sauce that I can do whatever I want with -- I can add crabs or use the marinara sauce by itself on spaghetti. It freezes well, so that's where it's going. When we got all done eating, there was still sauce left. Our friends took home some steamed crabs and a pint of sauce, so they can have their own crabs and spaghetti, and we had a pint of sauce and steamed crabs left for ourselves. Not bad for a day's work.
Judy's Crabs and Spaghetti
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped sweet onion
1 heaping Tbsp. minced garlic
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded, membrane removed (or 1 dried hot pepper pod, seeds removed can be substituted, if desired)
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. crushed anise seed
1 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. sea salt (or more, according to taste, but start out with 2, then taste)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 (35-oz.) cans crushed San Marzano plum tomatoes
1 (6-oz) can Contadina plain tomato paste
About 24 - 28 oz. water
8-10 fresh or frozen blue claw crabs
1 pkg. (16 oz.) thin spaghetti (Barilla, de Cecco and Buitoni are all good brands)
In large Dutch oven or stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion; saute for 1 minute. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and cook the onion for about 5 minutes. Remove lid; add garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients; turn heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cover pot; simmer for 45 minutes. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more salt if needed. Remove 2 quarts of sauce that you can freeze.
Add crabs, doing your best to get them covered with sauce. Some of the crabs will be partially or completely above the sauce; be sure you rotate so that the ones above the sauce eventually get under the sauce, and vice versa. Cover pot; simmer crabs for 45 minutes, stirring and moving the crabs around as needed. When crabs are nearly done, bring a big pot (5-6 quart) of water to a boil. Add 2 tsp. sea salt and spaghetti. Bring water back to boil, reduce heat slightly and cook according to package directions, stirring frequently. Drain spaghetti through colander and return to pot.
To serve: With tongs, remove crabs from pot and place on a platter. Stir sauce; spoon some over the spaghetti and mix lightly. Now, you have lots of options:
1. Serve a big platter of spaghetti with sauce on top and crabs on another platter.
2. Serve a big platter of spaghetti with sauce and crabs on top.
3. Serve individual plates of spaghetti with sauce on top and crabs served separately.
4. Serve individual plates of spaghetti with sauce and crabs on top.
I opted for #4. This is a messy meal. Instead of napkins, you might want to use a roll of paper towels at the table. First you have to suck the sauce off the crabs, then crack them open and eat them. We covered the table with crab paper, but you can use newspaper. Everyone just puts the picked shells on the table paper. Let me know if you make these, and how they turn out.