Saturday, June 23, 2018

Crabby Pizza

crabby pizza

I have about 30 tiny crabs ranging in less than an inch across the carapace and I have a husband who loves to eat pizza. I fried these live crabs without any seasoning for about 10 seconds and scooped them out with a tiny strainer. You can blanch them in hot water as well but I had the fryer out when I was frying up the soft-shell crabs. I would hate to try to chase after them as they are crawling away from my pizza!

I texted 2 Family Nurse Practitioner colleagues my crabby pizza photo. Sue responded, "It looks yucky". Kelly responded, "Hahah yummy !!" Although, I can hear her screaming with sarcasm all over her text. I also received a strong "yes" from my gastroenterologist friend Thao asking if she would eat this. I will withhold their last names to protect their privacy! 😁

My husband ate the pizza but tells me that after eating crabs for 2 days straight he would like to eat cheerios the next day! 

deep fried green crabs for about 10 seconds
sea asparagus or salicornia
this pizza (on pizza peel) is all ready to go into the hot oven
freshly baked crabby pizza on a pizza stone
crabby pizza

Crabby Pizza 

Ingredients:

1 Basic Pizza Dough recipe, home-made or store-bought (see recipe below or use your own recipe)
About 30 live crabs (less than 1-inch), fried or blanched for about 10 seconds
1 medium sized tomato, thinly sliced, dabbed with paper towel to remove excess liquid
About 10-12 sprigs of sea asparagus, washed and blanched for about 20 seconds in the microwave
Thinly slices of cheese (your choice)
Thinly slices of red onion

Method:

Make the dough (see recipe below). Fry the live crabs in oil for about 10 seconds. Scoop them out onto paper towels to remove excess oil. Preheat the oven to the highest possible temperature (around 500-550 F if possible) with a pizza stone (if you have one). Dust the surface of your working area (use a pizza peel if you have one) with plenty of flour before placing the dough down. Flatten the dough out as thinly as you can or prefer. Dab the tomato slices on a clean paper towel to remove excess liquid before scattering them on the pizza. This will help prevent the pizza from getting too soggy. Layer the cheese slices down and then arrange the crabs next. Arrange the crabs however you prefer. I arrange the smallest ones at the center and increase to larger ones to the peripheral. Next scatter with red onion slices and sea asparagus. Carefully slide the pizza onto the pre-heated pizza stone in the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the pizza crust is golden. For the last minute add a few more slices of cheese and turn off heat. Remove the pizza and enjoy.

*This pizza may serve as a meal for 1 person or appetizers for 2.


resting pizza dough for about 30 minutes

Basic Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup "00" flour, plus extra for kneading
1/4 tsp salt

Method:

In a measuring glass add warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Sift flour and salt and add the liquid, knead for about 5 minutes. Wrap loosely in plastic or cover and rest for about 30 minutes. Before using knead again for 2-3 minutes.

*Adjust the water if needed depending on the humidity level in your environment.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Steamed Green Crab Egg Custard

When you hear "egg custard" you may think of a dessert such as crème brûlée...at least that is how my husband, someone with a sweet tooth thinks! He got excited for a mere second until he realized that I am making a crab broth for this custard.

Japanese savory steamed egg custard, known as chawanmushi in Japanese is generally made with dashi (stock) using dried bonito flakes (fish flakes) and kombu (seaweed). People add a variety of ingredients inside this custard such as mushrooms, shrimp, chicken, fish cakes, carrots, beans, and ginkgo. In this recipe instead of the traditional dashi I use green crab broth, a piece of slightly smashed ginger and kelp that I harvested from the New Hampshire coast. You may check my previous posts for further details on how I make my stock or broth, How to Prepare Green Crabs for Making Stock and Simple Green Crab Stock. The crabs came from an afternoon of hunting specifically for green crabs and surveying them. I must thank a group of concerned citizen scientists and the 3 University of New Hampshire representatives for the crabs that I am using in this recipe.

steamed green crab egg custard

Steamed Green Crab Egg Custard

Ingredients:

1 cup of green crab stock, see How to Prepare Green Crabs for Making Stock, Simple Green Crab Stock links
2 large chicken eggs
1 1/2 tsp fish sauce (I prefer the 3 green crabs brand, seriously!)
About 1/3 cup fresh green crab roe (and crab mustard if interested)
4 cut carrot flowers, about 1/4 inch thick, cooked until soft, garnish
4 fresh cilantro leaves, garnish
4 ramekins

Method:

Make the crab stock or broth. In the meantime whisk chicken eggs in a bowl and strain it using a fine wire strainer into another bowl. Try to strain all the egg and scrape the bottom of the wire strainer to remove as much of the egg as possible. I tap the side of the strainer with my palm and this helps strain the whisked eggs. Once the broth is done strain the liquid in a fine strainer and discard the contents. If using previous frozen broth, heat it up before using. Season the stock with fish sauce.

Temper the hot broth and egg by scooping a ladle of the broth and while whisking the strained eggs slowly add the broth. Continue to add the hot broth slowly while whisking the eggs. The goal is to gradually raise the temperature of the whisked eggs without scrambling (cooking) them. 

Use a slotted spoon and divide the green crab roe/crab mustard in each ramekin. Pour the tempered egg and broth mixture into the ramekins. Cover the ramekins tightly with plastic wraps and place in a steamer. Be sure to have enough water for your steamer during cooking. Steam over high heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, partially uncover the plastic wraps carefully (it is very hot so avoid burning yourself) and place a piece of cooked cut carrot flower and cilantro leaf on top (I slide these in using chopsticks). Cover the cups up with the same plastic wraps and continue to cook for about another 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and serve hot.

Helpful Hints:

*You may remove some of the liquid from the roe and mustard with a spoon or rinse them in cold water and strain. If you rinse and strain them the flavor may diminish slightly.


whisk eggs in a bowl
strain the whisked eggs in a fine wire strainer into another bowl
strain all the whisked eggs
ramekins in a bamboo steamer
divide the crab roe in the ramekins
pour the broth and egg mixture
wrap the ramekins with plastic tightly
bamboo steamer in a wok style pot
with water below the bamboo steamer for steaming
cover the wok style pot
steamed green crab egg custard
cooked custard and roe
my mother-in-law gave me these pretty cups with lids
which are typically used for the chawanmushi
(I did not use these tea cups because
I was unsure how they would tolerate the heat)
crab roe and crab mustard--rinsed and strained

Simple Green Crab Stock

This is a very simple and basic crab stock or broth that is quick and easy to make. Please check out the link, How to Prepare Green Crabs for Making StockFor strong flavors such as crabs I prefer to add a little ginger. You can peel the ginger but it is not necessary. As a general rule of thumb I do not season any of my seafood broth. When I use the broth later during cooking, then I will season it. If you do not use all of the broth then you can pour it into a container, seal tightly and keep it in the freezer. This is good for up to 1-2 months.

Simple Green Crab Stock (makes about 2 cups)

Ingredients:

15 prepared green crabs, ranging from 1 1/2 to 2 inches (see How to Prepare Green Crabs for Making Stock)
2 1/2 cups water
3 slices of ginger, about 1/4 inch thick, washed, lightly smashed
1 piece of dried or fresh kelp

Method:

Prepare the green crabs. See How to Prepare Green Crabs for Making Stock link. Remove and reserve the roe and tamale (green color, if interested). Cover and place in the refrigerator until you need it. Crush the prepared crabs in a pot, then add water, ginger and kelp. Turn heat to high. Once the liquid comes to a boil decrease heat to a simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Watch your pot and turn the heat down if needed so that the liquid will not boil over. Skim off and discard the impurities (the foam) that float to the top. Use this stock right away or once cooled pour it in a sealed container and keep refrigerated for up to 2-3 days or in the freezer for up to 1-2 months. This stock is not seasoned so when you are ready to use you can adjust the seasoning according to your taste.

Helpful Hints: 

*For extra savory stock you may mix this with equal amount of another type of stock (home-made or store bought) such as chicken, turkey, pork, vegetable, mushroom, clam, and etc..
*This stock is good for many dishes including the egg custard which I will post next.
*When I make this broth I add the 4 carrot slices cut into a flower shape with an additional slice of equal thickness and place them in the broth to cook. I use the additional slice as a test to check when the pieces will be soft. Try not to cook these pieces until they are mushy since they will be part of the presentation of the custard cups.

crush the crabs
simmer the crushed crabs with ginger,
kelp and water for 25-30 minutes
strain the broth into a bowl and save the broth
discard the solids
green crab broth
cooking stock with cut carrot flowers
cooked carrot flowers
Addendum (5/24/2019):

You can also make this stock using just 10 prepared adult green crabs (male or females) and 2 cups of water. Add a few pieces of baby sugar kelp and ginger cut into matchsticks or chop. It is important to just let the stock simmer and not boil. You do not need to skim off and discard the impurities (the foam) that float to the top. This recipe will yield a little more than 3/4 cup of stock. Remember that adding more water will make more diluted stock.

simple green crab stock

How to Prepare Green Crabs for Making Stock

You can smash, crush or puree whole crabs, add water and make your stock or broth this way OR you can prepare the crabs the more tedious way like I do! Believe me, if I have a choice I prefer to do things the fastest and easiest way possible. It may sound time-consuming but I find that it is a better process to get the most out of my crabs. Part of my process is to clean the crabs by removing mud and sand, even though ingesting a little on occasion is not harmful to most people. The other essential part is the removal of the yellow-orange roe and/or crab mustard, if there is any. The crab mustard is the hepatopancreas, a filtering organ found in crabs and lobsters. These innards may sound toxic to ingest and probably are but for some people they are a delicacy. Eat with moderation if you are healthy and avoid if you are not.

My process of cleaning the hard-shell crabs for making stock is similar to preparing the soft-shell ones. The difference is removing the entire carapace in order to get to the yellow-orange matter and keeping the pointy legs intact. The hard-shell crabs are much stronger and faster than the soft-shell ones so you need to work a little faster and apply some pressure when removing the carapace. I remove these parts with my fingers but you can use scissors with pointy tips--carapace (dorsal shell), the gills on each side of the body, and the V-shaped apron on the abdomen. Scoop out the yellow-orange innards and reserve it in a separate bowl. For me, the best way to remove the most of this innards is to use a pointy flat knife. They are found in the interior of the carapace and on the middle of the body just underneath the carapace. Once these tasks are complete, rub the crabs with a little salt, rinse the prepared crabs in cold water, strain and place them in a clean bowl or pot to be used. Save the scooped out roe and crab mustard and keep them refrigerated until ready to use.

green crabs
lift up with one thumb just under one side of the carapace while
holding onto the belly with the other hand and push
with that thumb (while applying some pressure)
to separate the entire carapace
separating the carapace from its body
carapace and crab body
pull out the gills on each side of the body and discard
ventral view (belly side)--mouth parts, apron, pointy legs
pry open the apron with the tip of scissors or knife,
pull off the apron and discard
remove the roe and crab mustard found on the middle of the body and save
remove the roe and crab mustard from the interior of the carapace and save
prepared crabs with roe and crab mustard
may rinse and strain crab roe and crab mustard if interested

Helpful Hints:

*If you are planning on crushing the crabs then you may keep the point legs intact to save time. Removing them makes no difference in your stock.
*In my family we clean the prepared seafood with a salt rub (about 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon) and then wash with cold water several times to rinse off the salt. You can also do the same by using vinegar (about 2-3 tablespoons) to wash then rinse with cold water immediately. Do not allow the seafood to soak in the salt or vinegar.
*When preparing the crabs you may want to wear gloves to prevent injury. I find that wearing 2 layers of the exam gloves to be most helpful when cleaning the crabs. You may purchase these exam gloves at your local pharmacy store or online.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Vietnamese Crab Sandwich (Banh Mi Cua)

Dr. Bradt gave me 5 crabs that recently molted in her lab. I kept them alive overnight in the refrigerator and made 2 sandwiches with them. Later in the afternoon I went to the coast and helped capture and survey the green crabs with 3 University of New Hampshire representatives and a group of about 10 other citizen scientists. In the end I came home with all the crabs! Luckily, there were a fair amount of soft-shell crabs but most were small. From what scientists have learned it is the ones less than an inch are causing the most destruction, eating up the baby soft-shell clams.

"Bánh mì" is a Vietnamese word for bread but it can also mean sandwich or sandwiches. In Sóc Trăng, Vietnam sandwiches are made using a few different types of fillings. I grew up eating the classic bánh mì thịt (meat) or bánh mì síu mại (dumplings). The meat could be xá xíu (Chinese barbecued pork) or heo quay (Chinese roast pork from a whole roast pig). When I was a child living in Vietnam, my mother, who is a jack-of-all-trades, had a portable cart where she sold bánh mì xá xíu. She marinaded the meat and grilled it over charcoal for a delicious and very fragrant bánh mì filling. I remember her bánh mì were perfectly made and delicious. She also drizzled a special seasoned bean sauce known in Vietnamese as "nước tương". To this day I can still remember this particular sauce. For years I returned to Vietnam to visit my late grandmother and often purchased bánh mì thịt, made with the roast pork from a young woman named Nhạn. Her husband roasts whole pigs and she sells the sandwiches in the afternoon after working in the market selling a variety of pork products in the morning. She also uses the same bean sauce that I remember from my mother's bánh mì. For my crab sandwiches I drizzle this sauce over them to recreate the Sóc Trăng style bánh mì that reminds me of my childhood and mother's comfort food. I have not eaten any bánh mì with this sauce outside my home anywhere else in the US. It is not necessary to use the Green Crab Golden Pâté in the bánh mì. Pâté is not typically added in the sandwiches in the part of Vietnam where I came from. The pâté is commonly used in the sandwiches I find in the US, mixed with cold cuts as the filling.

Prepare all of your ingredients ahead of time except for frying the crabs and reviving the baguette (French Bread) to make it crispy and crunchy. Wash and dry all the herbs and vegetables and put them in the refrigerator so they will stay fresh. Once you have the last 2 ingredients then you can quickly assemble the bánh mì. You can invite a few friends and let everyone assemble their own sandwiches! This way you can encourage your friends to eat more green crabs!

Vietnamese crab sandwiches (bánh mì cua)--traditional style
Vietnamese crab sandwiches (bánh mì cua)--open face style
traditional and open-face style


Vietnamese Crab Sandwiches (Bánh Mì Cua)

Ingredients:

1 freshly baked baguette (French Bread)
Fried Soft-Shell Green Crabs (About 30, 8 large and 22 small)
About 1/2 cup of Green Crab Golden Pate (or your favorite home-made or store bought pate)
About 1/2 English cucumber, sliced lenghwise thinly (about 1/8th inch thick)
A small bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and air dried
Thinly slices of red onion, soaked in cold water until ready to use, squeezed out water before using
1 small handful of sea asparagus, washed, blanched in microwave with a little water for 20 seconds
Vietnamese Pickled Vegetables (Do Chua)
Seasoned Black Bean Sauce (Nuoc Tuong)
Sriracha sauce or hot chili pepper slices

Method:

To Make Extra Crispy Baguette (French Bread):

Use home-made or store-bought baguette. Spray the top of the baguette with a little water, place it in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 7-8 minutes or until it is a little firm to touch. This will make your baguette extra crispy and fresh. I recently learned this trick of spraying water on the bread to make it crispy and crunchy from Cheryl, co-owner of Forty Five Market Street Bakery and Cafe in Somersworth, New Hampshire.

To Assemble Bánh Mì:

You can be creative and make it however you prefer. For this post I make 2 types. One is a traditional type where all the stuffing is in the middle. The other type is an appetizer, open-face style. I use either cilantro or sea asparagus on the appetizers but not both--more for visual presentation.

For the traditional ones I cut approximately two 6-inch and three 2 1/2-inch pieces of the bread. Slice the bread lengthwise about 3/4 of the way leaving a hinge. Spread a few spoonfuls of the Green Crab Golden Pate on each side, place a few slices of cucumber on one side, place 2-3 (depending on the size of the crabs) Fried Soft-Shell Green Crabs in the middle, stuff with Vietnamese Pickled Vegetables (Do Chua), onion and cilantro and drizzle with the Seasoned Black Bean Sauce (Nuoc Tuong) and Sriracha sauce or hot chili pepper slices if interested.

traditional style

For the appetizers, open-face I slice the baguette into fourteen 1/4 inch thick pieces, lightly toasted to crisp them. Spread the Green Crab Golden Pâté.  Next I layer on 1-2 slices of cucumber, a few sticks of Vietnamese Pickled Vegetables (Do Chua), a few slices of onion, either a few cilantro leaves or few sprigs of blanched sea asparagus, 1-3 crabs depending on the crab size and drizzle with the Seasoned Black Bean Sauce (Nuoc Tuong). I only drizzle half of the appetizers with sriracha sauce.

open-face style (with cilantro)
open-face style (with sea asparagus)
open-face style (with sea asparagus)
sea asparagus
I harvested this vegetable known as sea asparagus or salicornia while searching for the green crabs. I first ate them on Maui where they are referred to as sea asparagus. Later I discovered them growing in salt marshes and near the shore in New Hampshire. They are delicious with a slight saltiness. I like to blanch them for about 20 seconds before eating.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Fried Soft-Shell Green Crabs

You can fry the soft-shell crabs with or without salt and pepper, you can coat them with your choice of flour or your very own special batter. For the larger crabs (any over 1 inch) I prefer to clean them before frying. The process is easy and quick. Check out my previous link How to Prepare Soft-Shell Green Crabs For Eating. Years ago my mother purchased several dozen soft-shell blue crabs for our family during a vacation in The Outer Banks. I remember we had to drive a very long way to get them and they certainly were not cheap. At that time I prepared the crabs and then coated them with store-bought pre-seasoned corn flour. I liked the taste of the fine corn flour. Here I use masa harina, a type of corn flour for making Mexican tamales or tortillas, but add a few extra ingredients to season it. This seasoned flour is enough for about 15-20 prepared soft-shell green crabs ranging from 1 to 3 inches in size. When I deep fry my food I prefer to place some type of barrier under my working area with either plastic, paper bags or old newspapers (if anyone still get them). This makes for easy and fast clean up. I use both ends of my chopsticks for frying these crabs--one end is dry, to coat the crabs and other other end is wet, to fry them. Any types of frying can cause some oil to splatter. I have a splatter guard that is very useful and I highly recommend it. I always have a separate dish or strainer with a few layers of clean paper towels to put the fried food in. This will help remove some of the excess oil. Also, for extra precaution I wear goggles or glasses to protect my eyes from the splattering oil.

fried soft-shell green crabs

Fried Soft-Shell Green Crabs

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil for deep frying (I normally use canola oil)
1/2 cup masa harina (corn flour)
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
15-20 prepared soft-shell green crabs (see How to Prepare Soft-Shell Green Crabs For Eating)

Method:

Pre-heat the oil in a pot or fryer until the oil temperature reach about 350-375 degrees F. You can test your oil for readiness by frying a leg that broke off. If the oil is hot and ready the leg will sizzle and cook quickly. If it does not then wait a little bit more.

Mix the dry ingredients--masa harina, turmeric powder, salt and pepper and then sift all the ingredients using a fine strainer. Gently tap the side of the strainer with your palm. Discard any large pieces that are left in the strainer. Once the oil is hot coat 1-2 crabs at a time on both sides, shake off excess flour and gently drop them in the pot or fryer. Turn the crabs a few times to prevent them from burning and let them fry for about 2-3 minutes or until they are golden brown. Remove and place them in a strainer or on clean paper towels.

Helpful Hints:

*If you prefer to have a little extra flour coating on the crabs then dip the crab into the whisked egg (1 egg would be sufficient) before dredging it into the flour.
*Here is a short video about soft-shell crabs: Green crabs are on the menu.
*Here is a short clip about green crab. Fighting back against the voracious green crab.

use a strainer to sift masa harina,
turmeric powder, salt and pepper
gently tap the side of the strainer with your palm
sifted seasoned flour
seasoned flour, prepared soft-shell crabs, and clean paper towels
coat 1-2 crabs in the seasoned flour
(coating all will make the flour soggy)
coated crab
shake off excess flour
and drop the crab in the hot oil
fry small numbers of crabs at a time (frying too many
will cause your oil temperature to lower quickly causing soggy crabs)
fried crispy soft-shell green crabs
fried soft-shell green crabs

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