Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cooling Off Period: Crab, Jicama, and Mango Salad with Lemon-Curry Dressing

Heck, even I think it's crazy to contemplate turning on a cooking apparatus today. The heat index value is going to be up around 103° today, the air quality is poor, and there's just no. fricking. way. I'm turning on a heat-producing device. No. No.


And I don't suggest you do, either. Thankfully, neither does The Wine Lover's Cookbook: Great Recipes for the Perfect Glass of Wine.
Crab, Jicama, and Mango Salad with Lemon-Curry Dressing (Classic Pairing)
Recommended Wine: Chardonnay
Alternative Wine: Viognier

This combination works because the richness of the succulent crab meat, the tropical fruit flavors of the mango, and the lightly curried citrus dressing help showcase the ripe tropical fruit and citrus flavors found in many chardonnays. The use of curry powder enlivens the dressing just enough to play into the spice character fhtat comes from the wine's barrel aging. Viognier, with its opulent texture, also marries well with this elegant appetizer.

1 pound crab meat, picked over for shells
3/4 cup diced fresh or frozen mango
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 cup peeled and diced jicama

Juice of 1 lemon (Meyer lemon, if possible)
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
1/3 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

12 leaves butter lettuce, rinsed and dried

Garnish: chopped chives, 6 lemon slices

In a medium nonreactive mixing bowl, combine crab meat, mango, chives, and jicama and mix well.

To make dressing, in a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Add dressing to crab mixture and combine thoroughly. Allow to sit, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours. Season to taste.

To serve, place 2 butter lettuce leaves side by side on each salad plate. Mix crab thoroughly. Spoon mixture equally onto lettuce leaves on each plate. Sprinkle with chopped chives and garnish with lemon slices.

Serves 6 as an appetizer
I had the great joy of spending yesterday evening on a boat in the South River, right where it feeds into the Chesapeake. That is to say, I was in crab country. When it looked like my carload of boat party people wouldn't arrive in time (there was a bit of a snafu that led to me, my car, and my passengers being about an hour south of where we were supposed to be...), I thought "well, at least we can get some crab." Summer and the mid-Atlantic practically scream out for the beautiful swimmer -- that's what the Latin name for blue crab means: Callinectes sapidus = beautiful swimmer...poetic, no?

Crab would normally be about $16 a pound at this time of year, Chefly Husband tells me. Instead, domestic crab is selling for about $24 a pound, thanks to the devastation in the Gulf. Depending on your budget and your food-as-politics leanings, you might want to file this recipe away until crab is more affordable, or you might want to hang the price and support domestic fisheries (perhaps I took the front matter in the Cook Book Presented by The Fishwives of Charleston Oregon a bit too much to heart).

I've been a stone's throw from the Chesapeake for two decades now (and I have the high school reunion invitation to prove it), but have to admit that, while blue crab is all well and good, it's not the real crab.

The real crab is Dungeness. No one can convince me otherwise. It's the best crab. It's the Master Crab! (Even its Latin name used to say so: Cancer magister.) Of course, I don't really ever think of using Dungeness in a recipe. There's no need. The stuff is perfection right out of the shell.

My devotion is shared by my family back in Oregon. When Dad was out to visit a while back, we went to eat at Chefly Husband's restaurant, and I had the crab cake. Now, Chefly Husband's restaurant does pretty much the best damned crab cake you'll ever have in your life. No lie. This is not spousal love talking, it's just plain fact.

Dad had a bite. Dad said, warmly, "that's the best crab cake that doesn't have Dungeness in it."

Can't really argue with that.

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