Yup, Christmas came early for us, because yesterday I came home with these just caught, just cooked Dungeness Crabs from Prince Rupert, BC, courtesy of my beloved brother-in-law. Since I paid $25 for one crab just a couple weeks ago, I'm fairly beside myself, feeling a little bit like I just got away with something. But don't worry this is all very much on the up and up: licenses, responsible crabbing practices and the like.
Like those special sour cherries for a certain cheesecake, my brother-in-law knows how much my heart swells with the gifts of the ocean and how much the gift of food means to me and I feel a lot spoiled right now. Of course he also knows that I'll more than show my appreciation in the future, so its all a very win win deal. (I've just realized that sentence has a certain dirty ring to it. Well, get your claws out of the sand, I meant I'd be cooking something special for him in the near future. Sheesh.)
So what do you do with a windfall of perfectly cooked prized crabs? Well you eat them as is of course, dunked in some boiling water to heat them up and dipped in a wonderful lemon butter. When they are this fresh there is no other way. Well except for cold with a freshly made Aoli. Later this week a crab bisque, a crab salad, and a crab pasta dish will likely show up on our dinner tables, but last night this was as good a meal as it gets.
When serving shellfish for dipping, I make lemon butter in the French fashion which elevates those two flavours by concentrating the lemon flavour, reducing the acidity and emulsifying the two to make a creamy smooth sauce. This sauce is made with the same method used to make a Beurre Blanc, where you concentrate a liquid to a syrup and then whisk in cold butter a little at a time, creating a voluptuous emulsification of liquid and fats.
Lemon Butter Sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
pinch salt and white pepper
half shallot, thinly sliced
1 sprig of fresh thyme and 1 strip of lemon peel
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into Tablespoons
2Tbsp boiling water or stock
Place juice, vinegar, salt and pepper, shallot and thyme in a shallow, small saucepan or skillet. Over medium heat, bring to a boil and let reduce. Once reduced by half, strain out the solids, pushing to extract juice, and then continue to reduce to 1 Tbsp, until slightly syrupy.
Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter 1 Tbsp at a time, but starting with 2 Tbsp. Whisk constantly and quickly, adding more butter when the previous Tbsp is incorporated. If you've worked quickly and the butter is cold, you should have a thick, creamy sauce. This will take a few minutes to take shape but stay with it. The heat in the pan is enough to melt all that butter. Season with salt and pepper and put aside on a hot stove, but not on the element. When ready to serve whisk in 2 Tbsp boiling water or fish stock to heat up.
-Be sure to reduce slowly and until slightly syrupy. This consistency is what will allow the butter to emulsify into the lemon juice without splitting.
-Leftover sauce can be kept aside or in the fridge. If gently heated over lowest heat in the microwave it might stay together, but since its almost entirly butter, it can be melted down and used for sauteing or tossing with pasta and herbs and even spooned cold over hot fish.