We were pulling out all the stops. I was making a Chinese-style fish dish paired with a few excellent Austrian Rieslings. The red Rhônes and Pinot noirs would match perfectly with the stuffed and grilled rack of lamb. We had a couple of old Bordeaux for the cheese course. Now I needed a course for the crisp Chardonnays (a Meursault and a high acid Californian).
I started to think crab. It was Dungeness season on the West Coast and we had trays of crab available at $4.99/lb at the local Chinese market. As I handled the ling cod for the fish course a couple of beautiful scallops glistened at me. I bit. But it can’t be just a seafood stew! Hmm. How about puff pastry? It always silences a crowd when a dish covered in a puff pastry hits the table. The child in us can’t wait to peek inside. The rest of the ingredients just fell into place. This is not as difficult as it sounds because you can, ahem, mumble, buy the puff pastry dough. I recommend Dufour. It is excellent (widely available) and works in a pinch. For the purists, I suggest Julia Child’s basic puff pastry recipe. Show offs.
1 3/4 lbs. Dungeness Crab, picked. Can substitute with any shellfish
6 large Scallops cut crosswise or 20 whole Bay Scallops
2 tablespoons Butter
1/3 bulb Fennel, diced
1 small Leek, chopped
1/2 Shallot, diced
1 teaspoon fresh Ginger, minced
3/4 cup crisp white Wine, no oak
1 cup Coconut milk
1/4 cup Whole cream
1 stalk Lemongrass, peeled, cut lengthwise in 4 in. lengths. Use 2
Juice of 1 Lemon
1/2 teaspoon yellow Curry powder
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 tablespoon Chives, diced
Dufour frozen Puff Pastry. Remove from freezer and place in the refrigerator 2-3 hours before using
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Ask the fishmonger to remove and crack the claws and legs. Use the bottom pincer from one of the legs as a pick to remove the meat. For the body, turn the crab over so the white belly is facing up. At the bottom, pull the crab tab up and away from the bottom to remove the shell (the fishmonger may have done this for you.) Rinse the body cavity. Split the body in half. Then split each side of the body into four slices like a pie (corresponds to the 4 legs and splits very easily). Pick. Nibble. Drink champagne (or Peay Viognier!)
2. In a 5 qt sauce pan melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Add the fennel, leeks and shallots and sauté on medium heat for 10 minutes or until translucent and sweet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Add the ginger to the sauce pan and continue to sauté for 3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup white wine and continue for 5 minutes.
4. Add the coconut milk, cream, lemongrass, lemon juice, curry and nutmeg and reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir and monitor so it does not boil over.
5. In the meantime, remove one of the puff pastry dough from the fridge and unfold. Place on a counter covered with flour and roll out until it is big enough to make 4 lids for the ramekins. Use a bowl a little bigger than the ramekins to cut out the lids like a cookie cutter.
6. After 5-10 minutes taste the broth and remove the lemongrass stalks if the flavor is too pronounced. Add the salt and pepper and chives.
7. Place a large lump of crab meat and 6 scallop pieces in each ramekin until the meat almost fills the entire dish. Spoon the broth over the meat until it is 3/4 way up the side of the ramekin.
8. Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter in a skillet or in a microwave. Brush the top side of the puff pastry with melted butter and place a pastry lid over each ramekin. Use a little butter on the underside of the rim to help you pinch the lid on tight.
9. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 20 minutes or until the tops of the puff pastry are golden brown.
*The name of the dish refers to its appearance and is not affiliated with the excellent restaurant of the same name in Rutherford, CA.