Do you like crab? I was born in July which makes me a Cancer. Cancer in the sign of the crab and likely the zodiac sign got its name from its Latin term, “cancer pagurus”. This genus of crab is most commonly found in the North Sea, North Atlantic and it can be found in the Mediterranean.
Crabs and crabmeat (not artificial crab made of pollock fish) are most commonly available cooked or in cans and they are a wonderful product for crab salads, crab cakes or pasta. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a part of the world with live crab available, I think it’s worth the splurge to buy and steam or boil a crab. Harvesting the meat might take a a little time but it’s not difficult.
When going out to choose a crab, some closer inspection is involved and one should look for male crabs (which contain more meat). The apron, the shape on the belly of a male is T-shaped and the prong narrow. On a young female (she-crab), the apron in triangular. Contrary to popular belief, there IS alot of of crab meat beyond the claw and knuckle. Open the crab and discard the gills and intestines in the middle and the rest is fair game. You should be able to harvest enough crab meat to fill-up the shell with!
Crab meat is naturally sweet and already seasoned (no need for salt). Frankly, I find crab meat to be tastier than lobster but don’t get me wrong…I love both! Today, simplicity rules once again with this simple pasta dish that highlights crab meat’s natural flavour with only a few ingredients to complement it.
The “sauce” for this dish includes onions, garlic and red peppers, some heat with chilli flakes, wine and I used some Ouzo. Ouzo is a Greek aperitif with an anise flavour that Greeks enjoy with meze and fish/seafood loves anise favours. If you don’t have Ouzo, some chopped tarragon or fennel fronds will work in a pinch.
To brighten the dish there’s fresh parsley, fresh scallions and lemon zest (with just a bit of lemon juice). To add some more colour and offer a more balanced meal, I’ve also added some asparagus into the mix. The asparagus here are shaved thinly with a vegetable peeler and require no cooking. They are tossed in at the end with the pasta and they complement the sweet crab meat, anise flavours and lemon zest. To add some punch to the dish, I’ve fried some sliced banana peppers (hot) and topped the pasta with this crispy garnish. A delightful Lent dish and a wonderful way to celebrate Spring on your family’s table.
Crab Linguine With Lemon & Asparagus (Καβουρομακαρονάδα με Λεμόνι & Σπαραγγια)
2 live crabs (1 kg. each),
1 500gr. package of dry linguine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup red peppers, sliced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 dry white wine
1 shot of Ouzo
10 spears of asparagus, thinly sliced
zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. of lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh scallions
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. Boukovo (dried chilli flakes)
2 hot banana peppers, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup corn starch
vegetable oil for frying
- Place a large pot of water on your stove-top and bring to a boil. Season generously with salt and when the water returns to a boil, gently place the crabs in the water and cover with a lid. As soon as the water returns to a boil, cook the crabs for 1o-12 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon and place in cold water to stop the cooking process (cooking times may vary, ask your fish monger how long your crabs will need to be boiled for). Reserve the water to boil your pasta in.
- In the meantime, heat some vegetable oil to about 350-360F. Dredge your slices of hot pepper in the corn starch and when your oil is hot, fry until crisp and golden. Reserve on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Remove the claws and legs by twisting them off with your hands. They can be cracked with the dull side of a knife and the meat removed with your hands. Now place the crab on its back and lift up the bottom shell with your hands. Remove the gills and guts but nothing else (the rest is shell and meat). There’s lots of meat in the shell and tucked-in between the thin bones on both sides of the shell near where the legs were. Reserve the shell (if you like) for presentation.
- In a large skillet, add your olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, red peppers and garlic and stir. Allow for the onions to soften and become translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the chilli flakes, Ouzo and wine and simmer for five more minutes and season with salt then set the skillet aside. At this point, bring your reserved water (use the water to boil crab) back to a boil and add your pasta and cook according to package instructions.
- In the meantime, rinse your asparagus and cut off the woody ends. Place a spear of asparagus on your work surface and run your vegetable peeler along the asparagus to give you long slender shavings of asparagus. Repeat with remaining asparagus and reserve.
- When your pasta has been cooked, drain and add to the skillet along with the lemon zest, shaved asparagus, scallions, parsley and crab meat. Gently toss until well-incorporated. Squeeze some lemon juice and top with the crisp hot pepper rings. Serve with Claudia Papayianni white Viognier/Assyrtiko blend.
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