Baked Dungeness with Paprika & Garlic Butter

January 21, 2015 § 1 Comment

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Hello friends – I won’t apologize for my long silence, because I know you understand the predicament of desire vs. time when you’re a grown up. But today my desire to write and my free time have happily collided. So, let talk about Dungeness crab, quickly, before this precious window closes…

Winter in the Pacific Northwest has many well-documented downsides but the silver lining is pristine seafood. It took me a few years to catch on to this, but now I travel with an oyster knife in my Subaru’s dashboard – toujours prête. Local oysters are spectacular in the winter, and they can be bought for a song at quick marts in tidal communities, as long as you know how to spot a fresh oyster. Or, if you’re not a risk-taker, head to Mutual Fish on Rainier Avenue. They’ll sell you delicious oysters for half of what you’ll pay in a restaurant and happily give you a shucking lesson, I’m sure.  Oysters are a treat, but Dungeness crab is a winter dinner staple at our house. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to catch our own in Puget Sound, but Mutual or the grocery store is always stocked with cooked crab, and they’ll clean the suckers for you. This means you can walk out the store with your fully prepared dinner in a bag – serve the crab cold with a few simple sides and it’s faster than picking up a pizza.

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It’s still dark terribly, terribly early in the evening (afternoon, really) here in Seattle. That calls for a hot dinner – something in the oven that will fill the house with rich smells and drive the children into the kitchen asking what’s for dinner, when’s it ready, what’s for dinner again and again and again. Weeknights don’t generally allow for that kind of cooking, but here is a solution: Spicy Baked Crab. Twenty minutes of dinner prep rarely results in such a luxurious meal. The title of this dish is Alice Waters’, as is the recipe. I think I might call it Baked Crab with Paprika & Garlic Butter, because the crab isn’t spicy, but spiced. Slicked with garlic and paprika infused butter, and roasted quickly in the oven under high heat until the sauce is sizzling and the crab meat is warmed through.  Serve with bread for dipping or rice to soak up the garlicky sauce, and a crisp salad to cut through the butter, butter, butter.

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ps – If you plan wisely and buy more crab than you can eat in one sitting, leftovers are killer on avocado toast, with a squeeze of lemon:

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Spicy Baked Crab

recipe adapted from the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook 

serves 4

2-3 Dungeness crab, cooked & cleaned, legs cracked (about 4 lbs)

2 cloves garlic, peeled

3 teaspoons paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 lemon, juiced

6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 Tablespoons melted butter

Lemon wedges for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic into a smooth paste with a good pinch of salt. If you don’t have a mortar, use a garlic press or a knife to dice the garlic very, very fine. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl and add the paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, olive oil and butter. Stir to combine and taste for saltiness and spice. Adjust the seasonings to your liking.

3. Arrange the cooked crab in a baking dish and drizzle with the sauce, coating the crab entirely. Use a pastry brush or your hands to ensure a thorough job. Roast the crab for 15 minutes or so, until it is heated and sizzling all the way through. Serve with lemon wedges and the rest of the sauce in ramekins for dipping.

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