Friday, December 01, 2006

Crab with a "K"

Hello, everyone! I want to start off by saying how kind everyone has been to drop me notes of sympathy this week at the passing of my old friend, Percy. I was truly touched by the outpouring of compassion, and it has really been helping me get through this difficult time. So thanks again.

Now, onto a food-related topic, eh?? Ok, I have a confession to make. I love krab. No, not crab, though I love the real deal in all its forms. In fact, I grew up on Dungeoness in my beloved homeland of Oregon. My mom and I often visited the coast (Bandon-by-the-Sea was our special place), and we never failed to come back with several of the tasty little monsters, in addition to some Bandon cheese, of course. Also, when I used to visit my dear friend, John, in Sonoma County, we used to drive over to nearby Bodega Bay and buy fresh crab right off the docks from a gnarly old character of a fisherman (read: Fish Nazi). And if we were very lucky, he'd also have the tastiest little langostines that I have ever eaten--but that's another story. Still, I enjoy the imitation crab--surimi, if you will. I don't love it more than real crab. I love it as its own entity. Kind of like Taco Bell...I don't love it better than "real" Mexican food. But I still love it as its own category of trashy cuisine.

I think my fondness for krab began in graduate school back in Seattle at the beginning of the 90's. First of all, I was an impoverished student, and it was CHEAP. Secondly, I was doing the Weight Watchers thing back then, and as krab is essentially nonfat and high in protein, you could have a lot more of it than other kinds of meat. Indeed, to this day, I make an excellent stir-fry pasta dish with krab that hails from those early days. I am also a fan of fish tacos and nachos made with surimi. And I enjoy a seafood salad made with imitiation crab, too. But last weekend when I was staying in Enfield, Connecticut, I had dinner at a really great Chinese buffet called the Royal Buffet that had all types of delicious dishes. But my favorite thing on the buffet was this kind of a seafood gratin bake that featured krab and corn and lots of cheese. Simple, really, but man, was it good! So I have had it in my mind to try to recreate a similar dish at home, and below is what I came up with. This is a rare "quick and easy" recipe from me that is also inexpensive, so I hope it will help folks out during this busy holiday season. It's even elegant enough to serve for guests, unless they have crab with a "k" issues. But if so, why are you hanging around with snooty people like that anyway? Get some better people around you and cook for them instead! ;-)

Oh, wait, one more thing...speaking of trashy cuisine. Have you all tried the new vanilla Frosty at Wendy's yet? I've always enjoyed the traditional Frosty, despite its lack of chocolatey-ness (more on the lines of a Nestle Quik shake, isn't it?). But the vanilla version is just delish! Super-creamy and very vanilla-y and quite a bit less expensive than other kinds of blizzards, cyclones, or concretes, I might add. Yes, you can get mix-ins, but I don't see the need. It's delightful on its own. So there's a little holiday gift for you, from Wendy's and me. Ooh, ooh! And I've just remembered one more seasonal goodie recommendation. If you are lucky enough to live near or have access to a Trader Joe's, you simply must try their Candy Cane JoJo's! These are their house brand Oreo-type cookie, but with a mint-flavored filling including crushed up bits of candy cane. If you like the Girl Scout Thin Mint, this will definitely be your cup of tea! Ok, onto the Krab Gratin:

Krab and Corn Au Gratin

1 stick butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly-grated (don't you DARE use that nastiness in a can!)
pinch of salt
few grinds of pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic (or two!)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (up to 1/2)

1 pound imitation crab (or real lump crab or a combo of crab and other seafood like shrimp or scallops)
2 cups corn (cooked, if fresh or frozen, or a drained can will do fine)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with pan spray and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook until the mixture starts to take on a little color (golden, not brown), whisking frequently. Slowly add the milk and cook until mixture thickens, whisking constantly. Turn off the heat and add the parmesan, salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne. Whisk until smooth. Add the imitation crab (or seafood of your choice) and the corn to the sauce and fold everything together gently. Pour into the prepared baking dish, top with cheddar, and bake for 30 minutes or until everything has heated through and the cheese has melted and started to brown just a bit around the edges. Serve over pasta or rice or biscuits (I used some lovely pappardelle from Trader Joe's that I picked up in Hartford, CT last weekend).


Anonymous said...

Hi. I made this recipe last night and it came out perfect. Thanks so much. My kids even liked it, one of the few casseroles without onions, which they abhor.
BTW, what is granulated garlic? I substituted the same amount of garlic powder and it was fine, but I am curious.

JoyBugaloo said...

Oh, I'm SO glad someone else tried the recipe! I needed a second opinion, as my roomie won't touch krab if she can help it. And I'm so glad you liked it! I thought it was delicious, too.

As for the garlic, granulated is just a coarser grind of garlic--that is, not as powdery as garlic powder. But garlic powder can be used interchangeably with granulated garlic, just don't swap it out with garlic SALT.

Thanks again for posting! --Gina