Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crab Stew

Another yummy New Jersey crab recipe. You really can't go wrong with crab meat and cream. I wonder if New Jersey still has its crabbing grounds. The crabbing grounds of the Chesapeake Bay are sadly depleted if the price of crab is any indication. I made this for a dinner party on Saturday night with several old friends, including Mary, a very old friend that I knew when my son was in nursery school. I actually hadn't seen her for three years.
After everyone came in and was introduced, the living room was kind of crowded, and Mary ended up in the passage between the kitchen and the living room. I grabbed her and hauled her into the addition for a tete-a-tete. After about twenty minutes, I realized that I was supposed to be cooking, and got after the crab.
It's one of these make at the last minute recipes. I had chopped up the tomatoes, shallots and mushrooms, sauteed them, and then added more tomatoes, shallots and mushrooms when my husband expostulated that we would not have nearly enough for nine people. Just before the main course, with a satisfying buzz of conversation emanating from the dining room, I added the crab and the cream. The cognac caused some consternation when I discovered we didn't have any. I was ready to stop at a liquor store and get some around 4:00 when I realized we also didn't have cream of tartar for the cake. Bob said don't worry about it, and produced a large bottle of what is probably cooking brandy, so I put that in.
It turned out that we had plenty for nine people, who were really eight because my husband, as already mentioned, does not eat shellfish. I ladled it on rather gingerly for the first few diners and was embarrassed to discover that when everyone had been served, I had a couple of hefty spoonfuls left. I tried to offer the guests a little more, but they declined. So I even had some left over for a much more deluxe lunch than my normal ham and cheese sandwich.
This is a very simple recipe that takes no more than a half an hour to make. Everyone seemed to like it.

The picture shows the stew in midpreparation, before I added the cream and the crab. In the flurry of trying to get food on the table, it's sometimes hard to remember to photograph it.

Crab Stew

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or scallions, including green part
4 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
Juice of half a lemon
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled seeded and cubed
1 pound lump crap beat, picked over to remove bits of shell and cartilage
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Tabasco sauce to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons warm cognac
cooked rice

1. Heat the butter in the skillet or chafing dish and add the shallots or scallions. Cook about three minutes and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and cook briefly, stirring. Add the tomatoes and simmer five minutes.
2. Add the crab meat, but treat it gently so as not to break up the lumps. Add the parsley and chives and simmer five minutes. Stir in the cream and Tabasco and add salt and pepper. Add the cognac and ignite it. Serve stew immediately with rice. Makes four to six serving.

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