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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hot Crabs

With the turkey carcass broken down, hacked into submission, simmered into stock, and drop-kicked to the back of the freezer for a future something or other, I happily  left the sleepy holiday food orgy behind. I needed a wake up call. A  culinary slap in the face. While there might have been a gazillion different routes I could have taken, I steamrolled down a fiery road with blazing heat. Blistering heat. Pure chili heat.

I had enough turf, I wanted surf. As luck would  have it, we're smack dab in the middle of Florida stone crab season. Can't make it to Florida? No need to pack your bags for a road trip because the Lexington Seafood Company has stone crab claws flown in twice weekly during the October through May crab harvesting season. They're not your run of the mill crabs. Unlike Eastern Shore blue crabs or Pacific coast dungeness crabs, Florida stone crabs are harvested only for their claws. Depending on size and sex, only one claw is removed from each crab before it's tossed back into the water to regenerate another claw. Talk about sustainable. Cooked and chilled right on the docks after harvesting, the luxuriously rich and meaty lobster-like crab claws are fantastic served either hot or cold. I turned up the heat with a loosey-goosey riff on Singapore Chili Crab.

Chili Crab.
Since the claws were already cooked, I simply kept them on ice while I threw together a quick chili-centered stir fry sauce. Like any fast paced stir fry, having all the ingredients ready to go was key. Hello, mise en place.

I slid a wok over a medium high flame and drizzled 2 tablespoons of peanut oil around the edges of the wok, letting it stream down into a puddle in the bottom of the wok.  When the oil started to smoke, I added 1/2 cup minced shallot, 4 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger, and 5 dried chili peppers (re-hydrated in hot water). Just before the garlic browned, I added 3 tablespoons chili bean sauce, 1/4 cup tomato sauce, 3 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, and 1 cup chicken stock. I brought the stock to a boil, let it rip for 5 minutes to reduce, and briefly pulled it from the heat before adding 3 pounds jumbo stone crab claws (3 very large 1 pound claws) and sliced scallions.

After sliding the wok back over the flame, I covered the wok to warm the crab claws, added a slurry (1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon cold chicken stock), tossed the claws with the sauce, and tumbled them over steaming jasmine rice before finishing with slivered scallions and fresh lime juice.

At first glance, when pulled from the slippery cracked shells, the delicate snowy white sweet meat seemed innocent enough. As it flaked apart and fell into the sauce, all bets were off. Pick. Pop. Lick. Repeat. Down and dirty lip burning messy sticky finger food. I wore it well.

Chili Crab.

Take it for a ride.
And feel the burn.

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