After a delayed start, the commercial crabbing season is in full swing off the Oregon Coast (still not so in California), and there’s fresh Dungeness waiting for you at your favorite seafood mart. For my tastes, the best way to eat Dungeness crab is boiled in saltwater right on the beach, cracked by hand and eaten out of the shell. But that just can’t happen every day for us valley folk. So I reached out to a few locals and asked for their favorite crab recipes.
First off is the Fresh Dungeness Crab & Ricotta Cheese Quiche from Deborah & Jean-Jacques Chatelard, owners of Bistro Maison in McMinnville.
“We serve it everyday for lunch as it's John Travolta's favorite food and want to make sure we have it in the event he is flying into McMinnville Airport,” said Deborah, who was kind enough to share the recipe:
Fresh Dungeness Crab & Ricotta Cheese Quiche -- Serves 8
1 ½ cup flour, pinch of nutmeg, pinch of salt
¾ cup butter
¼ cup water
2 additional yolks
½ quart of half and half
2 cups of loosely packed Ricotta cheese
2 cups of Fresh Dungeness Crab
2 tablespoon of fresh dill chopped fine
To make crust:
In bowl add flour, nutmeg, salt, and butter. Add eggs and water.
Knead into dough
Let it sit for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough
Lay into an 8in pie pan.
To make filling:
In Cusinart add eggs, salt, 1 cup of Ricotta cheese, fresh dill, salt, and half and half. Blend together for 20 seconds.
In crust put the remaining cheese and crab in quiche and follow with the blended mixture from the cusinart.
Cook for 45 minutes at 300ºF. Take out of oven and cool for 30 minutes.
Serve with salad or pomme frites.
Next comes a tasty version of a classic -- Wine Bar Crab Cakes with Chili Lime Aioli -- from Maria Stuart of R. Stuart & Co. Winery and Wine Bar, which recently hosted its annual crab feed.
“This recipe is the perfect pairing with our Rose d’Or, and also pretty darn wonderful with our Pinot Gris,” said Maria, who makes the crab cakes for certain special events. “I developed this recipe from a combination of one in Cook’s Illustrated and another one from Martha Stewart. What I was after was something that was really flavorful, make-ahead and could be baked in a hot oven, instead of fried – infinitely easier when serving a crowd.”
Wine Bar Crab Cakes with Chili Lime Aioli -- Makes 36 mini crab cakes or 20-24 slightly larger
4 slices good quality whole wheat sandwich bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat (I use Dungeness, but on the East Coast you may have to use something else)
6-8 saltines, crushed
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 ½ teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
4 scallions, green parts only, minced
1 good sized jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
¼ - ½ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Chili Lime Aioli (recipe below)
Pulse the bread in the food processor until you have medium sized bread crumbs. Toss the crumbs with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and bake on a rimmed baking sheet in a 300 degree oven, stirring occasionally. When lightly browned and dry, about 20 minutes, remove and let cool.
Gently toss the crab with 4 tablespoons of the cracker crumbs (reserve the rest for later), scallions, seasonings, jalapeno, and cilantro. Gently fold in the mayonnaise using a rubber spatula. Season the crab at this point with salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in the egg. If necessary, add the remaining 2 tablespoons cracker crumbs.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form the crab into cakes, whatever size you like, but make sure they are not too thick or they won’t cook all the way through. I make mine about ½ - ¾ inch thick. Place the cakes on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Line another rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top – I use a cooling rack for baking. When the crab cakes are chilled, coat them completely with the toasted bread crumbs, pressing gently the crumbs stick. Lay the breaded crab cakes on the prepared rack.
At this point you can refrigerate for up to 24 hours or freeze for up to a month. If you freeze them, thy can go straight into the oven still frozen. Just add a minute or two to the baking time.
Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and the cakes are firm, 12-15 minutes, depending on the size. Serve with Chili Lime Aioli and Rose d’Or!
Chili Lime Aioli -- Makes 1 ½ cups
1 garlic clove
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup canola oil
Zest of 1 lime (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 orange or red habanero, seeds and ribs removed and minced (I use rubber gloves whenever I handle chilis, so much safer!)
1 small to medium jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed and minced.
Place garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until pureed. Add the egg and the additional yolk. Process. With the machine running, very slowly add the oil in a thin steady stream; it will emulsify and thicken. Once the oil is added and the aioli had formed, pulse in the lime zest, juice, ginger and peppers. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.
Crab cakes are the planned meal for a lot of customers who go to Northwest Fresh Seafood in Newberg for fresh picked crab, said owner Jason B. But he likes to put a spin on that staple in the name of crab cake sliders. He directed me to a recipe for crab cake sliders by Jessica Burns as his favorite.
Jason also mentioned a favorite crab-driven dining option in the area is Nick’s Italian Café's Crab Lasagna.
For more crabby fun, attend the 22nd Annual MAClub Crab Feed on April 2 at the McMinnville Community Center.
And finally, if you're looking to kill some time, here's some crab puns for your entertainment.