Cooking Class: How to Cook Crab
The Chardonnay and Crab Feast is a longstanding wintertime Kendall-Jackson tradition, and we feature local Dungeness crab on our menus throughout crab season. So we cook tons of crabs (literally), and that means we have plenty of shells on hand for making stock, which is the secret to rich seafood soups like this one. You’ll be amazed at how much flavor you can get from just a few crab shells. Cauliflower gives this soup the sweet, creamy smoothness of a lobster bisque.
Follow along as Chefs Justin & Tracey teach you everything you need to know to perfect the art of everything crab.
How to Cook a Crab
2 live Dungeness crabs, each 1 1⁄2 to 2 lb
3 cups distilled white vinegar
1⁄2 cup kosher salt
To cook the crabs:
In a large stockpot, combine 8 qt water, the vinegar, and kosher salt and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the crabs, return the water to a boil, and cook for 13 minutes, or until the meat is opaque and the internal temperature registers 165°F. Carefully remove the crabs from the pot and let them cool until they can be handled.
Turn a crab belly side up and pull off and discard the triangular flap. Flip the crab over and, working from the rear end, pull off the back shell. Pull off and discard the spongy gills and any trace of red membrane from the body. Twist off the legs and claws from the body, then cut the body in half lengthwise and rinse the halves briefly with cool water. Using Joyce Chen scissors or a crab cracker, cut or crack the leg and claw shells open, then pick the meat from the body, legs, and claws. Repeat with the second crab. You should have about 1 lb crabmeat. You will need only half of the crabmeat for this recipe. Put it into a medium bowl. Reserve all of the crab shells (for the stock) and the remaining 1/2 lb crabmeat for making the Dungeness Crab & Cauliflower Soup. If not using within 2 days, the stock and the crabmeat can be frozen for up to 1 month.
Dungeness Crab & Cauliflower Soup
For the crab stock:
Shells from 2 Dungeness crabs
1⁄2 yellow onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 bay leaf
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 cups medium-dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
For the soup:
1 (2-lb) head cauliflower
2 tablespoons rice oil or other neutral-flavored oil
2 yellow onions (about 1 lb total), sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 qt reserved crab stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1⁄2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1⁄2 lb Dungeness crabmeat, picked over for shell fragments
To make the crab stock:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the crab shells on a half sheet pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
Transfer the crab shells to a medium pot and crush with a meat mallet. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, wine, and 3 qt cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine-mesh sieve, and let cool. Measure 2 qt for the soup; reserve the remaining stock for another use.
To make the soup:
Remove the green leaves and the bottom 1 inch of the cauliflower stem and discard. Remove 12 small florets and reserve. Thinly slice the remaining head, including the stem, and set aside.
Fill a medium pot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Fill a medium bowl with water and ice. Add the12 cauliflower florets to the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Drain immediately and plunge the florets into the ice bath to halt the cooking. As soon as the florets are cold, remove from the ice water and spread on a paper towel to dry.
In a large pot, heat the rice oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the onions and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, for 3 to 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the sliced cauliflower, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until beginning to soften. Uncover, add the stock, cream, bay leaf, thyme, and fennel seeds, and stir to mix. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, until the cauliflower is tender.
Remove from the heat, remove and discard the bay leaf, and let cool slightly. Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and process until smooth, pouring the puree into a clean medium pot as each batch is ready.
To serve: Place the soup over medium heat and bring just to a simmer. Season with salt and the lemon juice.
Place 3 blanched cauliflower florets and one-fourth each of the crabmeat and lemon zest in each individual serving bowl. Ladle the hot soup into the bowls and serve immediately.
Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli
For the crab cakes:
2 cups panko bread crumbs (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores) 1⁄4 cup red bell pepper, minced fine
1⁄4 cup celery stalks, minced fine
1⁄4 cup red onion, minced fine
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
2 large eggs
3 dashes Tabasco sauce
3 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
2 cups fresh crab meat (make sure the crab meat smells sweet and not overly fishy or sour) 1⁄4 cup clarified butter
For the lemon aioli:
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1⁄4 tsp. lemon zest, grated 1⁄2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup olive oil
For the crab cakes:
In a bowl, combine all ingredients except for 1 cup of panko, crab, and clarified butter. Mix ingredients thoroughly and then gently add the crab, being careful not to overwork the crabmeat. Form into patties and coat on top and bottom with the remaining panko (2-ounce cakes for an appetizer or larger for a sandwich or plated courses).
Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add clarified butter. Once the butter has melted, sauté cakes on both sides until golden brown. Serve with a dollop of lemon aioli. Leftover formed crab cakes can be frozen for several weeks.
For the lemon aioli:
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and Dijon mustard. Begin whisking in the vegetable oil, a few drops at a time. Once you have incorporated half of the vegetable oil, you can increase the amount of oil streamed in. Add the olive oil in the same manner. Season with salt.