Invite friends for seasonal crab dinner
I have a lot of friends who are good cooks, some who are great cooks, and a few who are exceptional. I also have a few who aren’t known for their culinary expertise but have many other redeeming qualities.
I have been friends with Jackie Behan, director of marketing and sales for the Carson Station and Pi-on Plaza, since we were in the third grade. She is smart, witty, beautiful and a great golfer, but has trouble finding her way around the kitchen.
So when she invited Ralph and me to her house for an early Christmas dinner with her daughter and son-in law and she announced she was going to cook a turkey, I can’t exactly say I was thrilled with the invitation. Even though I love her dearly, there are a lot of ways to screw up a turkey. The last turkey dinner I remember her cooking (or her mother cooking with her help) was in 1973, and that’s a long time between turkey dinners. She said the only thing I might have to do was make the gravy.
When we got there, the table was set, the turkey was resting and waiting to be carved. The cornbread and yams were just coming out of the oven. I sneaked a taste of the cornbread dressing, and it was yummy. The dinner looked and smelled delicious. I was pleasantly surprised.
The only small glitch turned out to be the gravy. I had poured the drippings from the turkey into a pot in the sink and was just getting ready to transfer it to the stove, when Jackie’s friend Alan Saunders, who was on kitchen cleanup crew, grabbed the pot, tossed the drippings down the drain, and proceeded to wash that pot clean.
Now, at my house that would have been a catastrophe, but not at Jackie’s. She went to the cupboard and got two cans of turkey gravy, a can of chicken stock, threw in some turkey dressing and a few ends, and we had some pretty good turkey gravy. It was a wonderful dinner with friends we love, and it gave me some great material for this column.
If you were thinking about having an easy dinner and inviting some friends over this would be a great recipe for any cook. Now is a good time to be buying Dungeness crabs, especially if they are on sale at the market. Ask the butcher to clean the crabs for you. Remember to crack, not smash, the crabs, so the shells will separate easily from the meat.
2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 T. finely chopped parsley
1-1/2 tsps. minced garlic
1-1/2 tsps. finely chopped rosemary
1 (28-ounce) canned tomato sauce
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup bottled clam juice
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp. sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cooked, cleaned and cracked Dungeness crabs
Salt to taste
Sourdough bread for serving
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and parsley and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, tomato sauce, wine, clam juice, butter, sugar and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Add the crab pieces and stir to coat with the sauce.
Bring the sauce back to a boil and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the crab is just heated through. Taste the sauce and add salt, if desired. Serve with sourdough bread for soaking up the sauce. Serves 4 to 6.
This recipe comes from the Bodega Bay Grange. It holds a crab feed every year with four seatings of up to 200 people expected to attend each 90-minute session. This year’s crab feed is Jan. 19, and tickets are $35. Call the Grange for tickets (707) 876-1804.
This next recipe would make a great finale for the crab dinner. It could also double as a sweet muffin, which would be a great addition to any brunch. This recipe comes from Land O’Lakes home-style desserts.
MINI PINEAPPLE GINGER UPSIDE-DOWN CAKES
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 (8 ounce) can pineapple tidbits, well drained
3 T. melted butter
1-1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup melted butter
1 (8 ounce) container plain yogurt (you could substitute sour cream)
1 egg, beaten
Heat oven to 375 F. Combine all topping ingredients in small bowl. Place 1 tablespoon topping mixture into greased, deep muffin container. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, ginger, salt and baking soda in large bowl. Add butter, yogurt and egg. Mix well. Spoon batter over topping mixture in muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until tops are golden. Cool 3 minutes. Immediately turn onto serving plate. Serve warm. Top with whipped cream and cherry, if desired. If using a shallow muffin pan, recipe will make 15, instead of 12,mini muffins. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Linda Marrone has been a Carson City resident since 1973. She and her husband, Ralph, operated Marrone’s Restaurant in Carson City and currently own Somethin’s Cookin’ Catering.