Monday, July 29, 2013

The Ceviche Rule - Crab II

In the midst of all this crab, I have long wanted to make crab ceviche.

The first time I tried I thought I'd go with all-the-way-raw crab.  There is one extremely major problem with that.  As far as I can tell, there is no way to get raw crab meat, in any significant amount, out of the shell.  How do I know this?  Bitter, bitter, frustrating experience.  The meat of the crab holds on to the interior of the shell with startling tenacity.

Blanch.  Blanching is my friend (and yours too).  Relax that angry crab, and get yourself what you need to make crab ceviche instead of killing yourself for about 5 chips worth.

I admit it looks good,
but you are looking at
about 1/5 of the whole thing!

Now ceviche is one of those things that can be done tons of ways.  But as long as you follow a few basic rules, you can mix and match ingredients based on what's on hand, and what you like best.

1st - the Crab Ceviche recipe and then 2nd a general rule for ceviche in general.

Dungeness Crab Ceviche

1 dungeness crab
1 shallot (or 1/4 of a small purple onion)
2 garlic cloves
1 red jalapeƱo pepper
4-5 limes and/or lemons
1/2 avocado
handful herbs - cilantro, basil parsley are my faves.
salt to taste

crab cracker, or kitchen shears
cutting board
medium glass or ceramic bowl
citrus reamer (or other juice extracting device)

Get an inch of water to boil in a covered pot big enough to easily hold your crab.  Pop in your crab for a steam.  2 min for a pre-cleaned crab 3.5 min for a whole crab.  This won't cook the crab through, but will cook the meat enough to remove it easily.  Remove the crab and set it aside to cool.

Cut the lemons/limes in half, and get the juice out - you are looking for about 3/4 cup.

Use the cracker and a couple of the pointy toes to liberate the crab from the shell.  Get the cartilage and shell out.

About 1.5C crab.
If you don't have dungeness, you'll need more than 1 crab 
Add the citrus juice to the crab, and let it sit for 30 - 90 minutes.

Cube the avocado half (Check this HINT! out for picking out a good one, and making it look nice.)

Cut up all your other ingredients small.

Remove the white ribs and the seeds from the chili if you don't want lots of spice.  (Leave some in for some kick.  Careful about overpowering the crab.)
Stir together all the plant ingredients.  Add the cooked crab.  Then add enough juice to balance the flavors.  Make sure there is enough salt to make the flavors taste great, but not so it tastes salty.

I love serving mine on corn chips (as you may have noticed...)

Bonus Note:  If all you can find is that "pasteurized" or fresh picked crab, just stir all the goodies together and serve - INSTANTLY.  (You won't need as much lime juice.)

The Ceviche Rule
Ceviche works for seafood generally since it tends to have little or no fat incorporated in the muscle (meat).  You'll notice there is never "xxx-belly" ceviche.  And if you do ever see it, run the other way.  The acid in ceviche (the citrus) denatures or cooks the proteins, but does snap-all for fat.  And there are few times we westerners dig cold animal fat, much less wet, sour animal fat.

So - whatever seafood you have, here are the rules you need to follow to wow your friends, or cook something awfully nice for yourself.

basics ingredients:
for 1lb fish and/or shellfish

1C citrus juice
2 cloves garlic - minced
about 3 Tbs finely chopped onion (purple or sweet is best)
finely diced chili to taste
salt to taste

accessories - extras many people like.

a splash of oil to smooth things out
torn or chiffonade herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley)
spicer chilies or a dash of a vinegary hot sauce
cilantro, basil, parsley or other herbs

"cooking" time:

raw fish - 1/4" cube about 1 - 2 hours
                1/2" cube about 2 - 4 hours

same with scallops, conch, whatever you decide to go with.
(psst - whole clams and oysters won't work - too many things that aren't muscle - don't do that to yourself)

not really worth doing larger bits, but if you want to - soak it until it is firm.
And if you want to soak it longer - it may get a little hard.  Careful.

If you want to stop the soaking, but it's not serving time yet, pour off the citrus juice, let the fish hang out with the other stuff, and then add back in a little juice at serving time.  Keep it cold!

blanched shellfish (crabs, lobster, shrimp)

soak about an hour, but check at 30 minutes.
Depending on the size of your pieces, it may not take the whole time.
Again - a little extra time in the juice isn't going to hurt anything, but leaving it in there forever will make it too firm, and you'll likely lose the seafood flavor.  So if it before serving time, just keep it cold out of the juice until serving time.

Keep these proportions - and mix in what else you like - you'll be in great shape.

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