This week's blog is short and sweet. I actually took it easy on the eating out and cooked at home. That doesn't mean I didn't eat well. I roasted a trussed chicken wrapped in housemade bacon from Olivier's Butchery in Dogpatch and served it with roasted potatoes.
I made my favorite winter veggie sandwich, inspired by one that Cane Rosso has served in the past. My version is an open-faced sandwich made of Bellwether Crescenza cheese, sauteed dino kale, and a healthy smear of roasted butternut squash all on ciabatta, which has been toasted lightly and rubbed with olive oil and a bit of a garlic. (Theirs also had a deilcious pumpkin seed pesto on it.)
But the most memorable meal of this week was the best crab you'll ever eat—it's become a winter tradition in our house and it's perfect for Christmas day. Though I bestowed the recipe on this site in 2008, I'm bringing it back for 2011. Serve it with a chopped salad of radicchio, romaine, and blue cheese. Good white wine. Baguettes for ripping and dipping into the spicy olive oil. And a lot of napkins. Goggles wouldn't be a terrible idea either as it's pretty juicy.
Roasted Crab with Fennel and Thyme
Based on a recipe from Reed Hearon—formerly of LuLu and one of San Francisco's most lauded chefs in his day—this recipe is slightly rough, but a little more, a little less of the seasoning won’t make a difference. For the best deal on crab—$3.99 a pound—we go to Sun Fat in the Mission District. Serves 4
4 live Dungeness crabs, about 2 pounds each
4 big pinches of chili flakes
4 big pinches of fennel seeds
1 small handful of fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon of kosher salt (more or less)
Enough olive oil to make a wet rub
To prepare the live crab, place them in boiling water for 3 minutes a piece, just enough to kill them but to not completely cook them. (Give thanks to the crab for their life and then cover the pot so you don’t have to look.) Remove each one with tongs. When the crabs have cooled, rip off the crown and clean out all the guts and butters. Halve, then quarter. Use a hammer to gently crack the legs just enough to let in all the flavor. Place the crabs on a sheet tray.
To make the rub, take all the ingredients and place them in a mortar and pestle and pound. Alternatively, place in a spice/coffee grinder and grind until a nice, damp paste has formed. Slather the crab pieces in the paste, adding more olive oil if necessary.
To follow the original recipe, get a grill as hot as possible and place the crab directly on it. Close the cover and grill for 2 minutes. Open it back up and brush on whatever remaining rub you have and close the lid again. Grill for 10 minutes more until nice and charred.
To do it the lazy way, preheat an oven to 500 degrees, spread the crab out on a baking sheet, and roast for 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve immediately with lemon wedges, although it really needs nothing more.