Brittany Spider Crab and Petit Chablis

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The Duc has a great technique for cooking lobster. It works for crab too. He says he learned while traveling in South East India in the early 80s where you could get cooked lobsters on the beach for 2$. Apparently, they were cooked for 1 hour (!!heaven forbid!!) but which proved to have the most delicious flesh because the water never boiled and it took forever to get the water hot given the shortage of firewood near the beach.

Choosing the crab: it must be alive (still moving) and the males are better than the females (more flavor and more full of flesh-meat). Ask your fishmonger, they’ll know.

just barely fit into the cocotte
just barely fit into the cocotte


Cooking the crab:

Place the crab in a large enough pot (mine was just barely big enough for this bigger than I expected crab!)

Fill with cold water amply salted (sea salt is preferred). Do this by taste. It should be like seawater. You don’t want the crabmeat to lose the seawater taste in the meat. And you don’t want to increase the saltiness either.

First use the highest heat to bring the water to a temperature similar to that at which you like to sip soups. No more. Never let the water even boil; or you will loose some of the flesh. This period of high heat is only about 4-7 minutes.

Then turn off heat or turn it to very low (depends on size of crab, amount of water, power of heat). Keep the crab at this lowest heat for cooking for 10-20 minutes.

If you see any white flakes in your cooking water, either the water is too hot or the crab is cooked. Remove the crab from the water immediately.

The crab in these photos was so big that it was a full meal for 2 (we had a green salad afterwards). We had it just plain. No sauce. No lemons. Just the crabmeat. Delicious.

Petit Chablis
Petit Chablis

To accompany the beast, we had a 2004 Petit Chablis from Vincent Dauvissat. 2004 is a great Chablis vintage, contrary to its reputation. You can still find them in shops. You can almost buy them blind (as long as they have been properly stored). I found this wine recently at a discount sale. Nobody believes in the 2004 vintage. And nobody wants ‘petit’ anything even though wines today labeled Petit Chablis comes from 30-45 year old vines (medium old vines).

The pale yellow color has some green tinges that are a positive sign of acidity and youth.

The aromas were typical of Chablis (lemons, butter, sautéing mushrooms and the increasingly rare aroma of crushed stones) with an herbal butter redolent of noble herb butter Puligny Montrachet. 

The mouth was more in a linear lemon butter and chalk dust style. Unfortunately not quite ‘fat’ and complex enough for the slow cooked crabmeat. 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. julia says:

    This is such a great post! and perfect for the season. I have been scoping out 2004 bottles – thanks for the tip!

    I had a question for you regarding white wine and oak:
    Recently I made coconut shrimp soup (with garlic, ginger and lemongrass) and served it with ‘Le Nude’ a non-oak chardonnay from Summers Winery in Napa. It was amazing – the wine, which is a already an enjoyable light fruity wine, came ALIVE. I did the soup again and bought (happily) more wine and the guy said ‘oh yeah, you don’t want oak with shrimp’.

    when you get a chance: why?!

  2. saltpepperlime says:

    Thanks, Julia!

    I think that wine guy just wanted to say something to sound important (non-wooded Charonnays are really ‘in’ at the moment, but it is not because something is ‘in’ that it goes with the food.)
    For shrimp, it really depends on how it is prepared, but I usually find that some wood on Chardonnay goes well with shrimp (and other crustaceans for that matter) because wooded-ness gives a little butteriness that marries with the shrimp. It sounds like the fruitiness of your ‘Le Nude’ went swimingly with the spiciness of your soup. I would think that a wooded Chardonnay from a mineral soil and mineral vintage (like 2004 or 2007) would also go well, giving some topographical relief that would echo the spiciness.
    That being said, if ginger is the dominant spicy force, you might even try a tannic red…I’d have to taste the soup;)

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