Asparagus and crabmeat dressing

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White asparagus are more versatile than you think! Of course, they are great the traditional way, steamed with a hollandaise sauce, maybe with some country ham. But, ever tried them grilled, with creamy burrata cheese and olive oil? Or with a poached egg on top? So much better than the soggy old boiled things we get too often.

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It used to be a time when some plates were not meant to multitask:  the story of my Barbotine asparagus plates.

When my grand-mother died a few years ago, and left behind a beautiful collections of porcelain plates, ceramics, silverware, it was easy to share them between the whole family. But theses asparagus plates? They got not love. Too clunky, too old, completely out of style. And today, who has the space, or the need for some asparagus plates? I did not. But I thought they were so oddly charming, and I relished the idea of having something so weirdly specific, that I would probably use three times a year... These 6 plates were probably made in the XIXth century, and are a type of ceramic called Barbotine, that would be molded to a specific shape - mostly flowers, on vases and pitchers. it was an incredibly popular style at the turn of the century, but the interest for the barbotine waned and most of the plants closed after WWI. Some styles are now highly sought after by collectors, but the asparagus plates are definitely not in this category... But it turns out that they are really practical, and very well thought out: the two sides hold the sauce perfectly, and don't mix with the cooked asparagus, rendering them mushy. The colors complement perfectly the white of this vegetable, and i could not be happier to use them for the first time with this recipe.

- Marie

The asparagus really compliment shellfish, like lobster, langoustine and in this case baby spider crabs, known as “moussette” here in Brittany. They are very sweet and easier to eat than their mature brethren. If you can’t get spider crabs, let alone the moussettes, many different kinds will do; Blue crabs, Dungeness, rock crabs…

White asparagus, crabmeat dressing

  • Servings : 4 as an appetizer, 2 for main course
  • Prep Time
  • Cooking time: 

Instructions

Cooking the crab 

  1. Bring 5 liters of water to a boil
  2. Add the sea salt
  3. Boil the crabs for 15 minutes (for a larger crab 20-25 minutes depending on size)Drain and let cool
  4. When cool, break down the crab and set the meat aside
  5. Set aside the orange (red depending on species) inner parts. This is the tomalley. Great for flavor

Asparagus

  1. Using a vegetable peeler remove the outer skin of each stalk
  2. Steam the asparagus for 30 minutes

Crab Sauce

  1.  While steaming the asparagus, slowly melt the butter in a sauce pan
  2.  When melted add the crab tomalley and mix well
  3.  Simmer for 5 minutes
  4.  Strain the mixture to remove any congealed parts
  5.  Add the melted butter back to the pan
  6. Add the crab meat and a pinch of cayenne
  7. Simmer for 5 minutes
  8. Turn off heat and add chopped parsley
  9. Serve the steamed asparagus topped with the warm crab dressing and a wedge of lemon.

 

Ingredients 

  • Two small spider crabs - about a 500 grams each.
  • 25 grams of sea salt
  •  1 kilo white asparagus
  • 100 grams lightly salted butter
  •  10 grams chopped parsley
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

 

Marc's wine pairing :

Asparagus are for some reason notorious when it comes to wine pairings. But, I think that is really an old legend, when people thought that white wine meant heavier burgundy style chardonnays. Yes – the grassy notes in the asparagus could clash with these wines. But, in the Alsace they’ve been drinking dry Rieslings and pinot gris with asparagus for ages. Wines from the Loire Valley, Provence, or even a Portuguese Vihno Verde all do the trick.

This dish has the added richness of the crab dressing, so we kept things aromatic and rather floral with a great pairing recommended by our travelling sommelier – Aurelie Denais. Clos des Jarres, L’Estrangier - Coteaux de Peyriac Blanc comes from the Minervois region in southern France. It is made from Sauvignon grapes, which are not indigenous to the region, hence the name which is Occitan for foreigner.

Imagine a northern sauvignon, dry, with citrus and acacia notes, but then add some meridional sun and hot baked earth to the mix to bring out apples and even a bracing eucalyptus finish… It was easy to drink through the whole bottle with our crab infused asparagus.