I’ve been dying from seeing all the Dungeness crab posts on social media lately. Crab season in the San Francisco Bay Area only started last week and people have been eating up a storm without me. I guess they were all making up for last year’s disastrous, nearly non-existent crab season when warm waters made the popular shellfish toxic.
So far this year, no domoic acid, at least not along the coast off the Bay Area. Stores have been selling local crab and I finally made up for it this weekend when I got my hands on my first live crab from Berkeley Bowl West.
I could have gone the simple route and roasted my crab with garlic and butter, but I decided to do something different. Flipping through my various cookbooks, I found a recipe in the “Try This At Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate” cookbook from Chef Richard Blais. It didn’t hurt that the recipe had uni (or sea urchin) in it, another one of my favorite ingredients.
Blais’ recipe calls the dish “Black Spaghetti with Crab, Uni and Chile Oil” because it features squid ink pasta, which is the “black spaghetti.” Along with the squid ink pasta, crab and uni, another key ingredient is Calabrian chili oil, a spicy Italian extra virgin olive oil that’s popular at many restaurants, accentuating dishes like pasta and pizzas.
Side note: Blais’ cookbook teaches you how to make your own Calabrian chili oil but I just got mine from Market Hall Foods (formerly the Pasta Shop) in Rockridge.
For my crab, I steamed it ahead of time and then refrigerated it until I was ready to make dinner. Pulling everything together is fairly easy, and you’re rewarded with that umami sea flavor from the squid ink pasta, uni, and crab. The chili oil adds that heat to make the plate sexy. I was in crab heaven.
Black Spaghetti with Crab, Uni + Chile Oil
(excerpted from “Try This At Home,” 2013, Clarkson Potter)
4 lobes uni (sea urchin roe)
2 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. squid ink pasta
1 T Calabrian chile oil
8 oz lump crabmeat*, picked over for shells
2 t grated lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh flat leaf parsley and basil (reserve some for garnish)
1/2 cup toasted herb bread crumbs (optional)
Put the uni in a mini food processor and puree until smooth (reserve a few pieces for garnish). Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.
In a large deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm over low heat.
Meanwhile bring pot of water to boil and salt it generously. Add the squid ink pasta and cook per directions (usually about 10 to 13 minutes). Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add to the skillet.
Drizzle the chile oil over the pasta, then add half the crabmeat, lemon zest, herb mixture, and the uni puree. Using tongs, very gently toss the mixture to combine. Add a little of the pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time if the pasta seems dry. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
To serve, divide the pasta among four warmed shallow bowls. Sprinkle the remaining crab over the pasta followed by the uni pieces you reserved earlier. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of chile oil, if desired, and scatter rest of the chopped herbs and the bread crumbs. Serve immediately.
*It’s cheaper to buy live crab and cook it yourself. I chop my crab in half to quickly kill it (the shell is somewhat soft when fresh) and remove the gills and guts from inside, rinsing them off. Then I can fit the two sides into a steamer, where I cook the crab for 15 to 20 minutes. Then I crack the crab shells and pick out the meat. My 2 lb. crab yielded almost the 8 ounces of crabmeat I needed for this recipe.
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