Dungeness Crab Quiche

In general, I stay away from shellfish. However, yesterday one of my coworkers brought in a buttload (not literally) of cooked Dungeness crabs for distribution. This being the holiday season, there was not a buttload of us at the office. So when it came time to divvy up the catch, I took my ration. My rules/beliefs on consuming animal flesh are convoluted, but leaving them in the office fridge for a four-day weekend, and then inevitably thrown away uneaten thereafter, would have been 10 times worse than actually eating the poor guys.

I took two, with the idea of making a crab quiche with my new Japanese tart pans. (Thanks, TZ!) I’ve only ever eaten crab legs or crab meat shelled by someone else, never have I had a whole crab. I read up on the process of how to cook (thankfully already done) and clean them. Just reading about it made me want to never do it again. A flicker of thought told me to just take the legs and forget about the bodies, but mostly I felt I needed to do them justice. And so I went to work.

Cleaning the meat out of the legs was tedious but after almost an hour, it was done. The bodies . . . It’s true that if you stick your thumb in that place there, the carapace just pulls right off. What’s inside . . . really looks alien. Not that I’ve seen an extraterrestrial, much less dissected one, but that is exactly what came to mind. Too many movies, I suppose. And again, I was so, so thankful it was already cooked. I felt bad because I think I did waste a bit of meat in my haste to get that part over with. And now I can truly say I will never voluntarily clean a crab again.

That all being said, it was time for the fun part. I cleaned one of the tart pans. It is a 7″ tin, so I had to reduce my recipe which was for a 9″ pastry. I made some other modifications due to kitchen/pantry constraints. I sauteed a bit of red onion in butter, then added the crab. I used one pre-made pastry to line the tin, and baked it a few minutes. Amazingly, of all the crazy cheeses at QFC, they only had two choices for Swiss cheese – a one-pound block from Tillamook and a small packet of store-brand. Reluctantly, I went with the store brand, as I really don’t need a pound of Swiss cheese in my fridge. So, I grated a layer of cheese on the bottom, scooped the crab & onion on top of that, grated another layer of cheese. Two eggs were beaten with a bit more than half a cup of half-and-half, a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper, and more salt than I felt comfortable with (it will still probably be less than what any recipe would call for).

Verdict: Delicious! Thank you, crabs!!

Dungeness Crab Quiche

Top 10 of 2007

It’s the end of the year, and everyone is thinking back to all the good stuff and bad stuff from the last 12 months. All the DJs are putting out their Top Ten songs and albums of the year. There are probably Top Ten news stories in various places. Top Ten This, Top Ten That. I thought I might make my own list. So I thought and I thought, for at least five or ten minutes, but nothing came to mind. Well, one thing did come to mind – the Top Ten Indescribable Things That Happened in 2007 That Made it Unique From All the Other Years I’ve Been Alive.

For instance, I started this blog in 2007. I got the Tassajara Bread Book this year after seeing the film How to Cook Your Life. I played Quake again after like 10 years. I used Flexcar. My buddy Alex finally came to visit me after years of my badgering. I bought a new DVD player. The QFC opened two blocks from my apartment. The Tower Records two blocks away closed then became a Silver Platters which I never go to. (I rarely went to Tower, either.) The only marriage for which I’ve been a member of the wedding party (since my sister’s when I was 18) ended in divorce. I finally bought rain boots after living in Seattle for nine years.

I think that’s 10 things. I don’t know if that’s Top or Bottom, and I’m not sure what the long term effects of those things are – hence the “indescribable”. But they happened. And who cares?

So here’s my real Top Ten.

The Top Ten Wasabi Peas of 2007:

Top Ten Wasabi Peas

And then there were none.

Blueberry Custard Tartlets

A friend of mine is having a blue-themed holiday party tonight, so I decided I would make a blue-themed dessert. What is more blue-themed than blueberries? So, I came up with this idea to make individual custard pies with blueberry compote on top.

Normally, I would make my own crust, but I had a pre-made Pillsbury crust left over from Thanksgiving. I cut it into 12 more-or-less equal pieces, balled up the pieces, rolled them out, then lined muffin tins with the little crusts. I stuck those in the freezer while I mixed the custard. I used a basic recipe – organic milk, organic eggs, vanilla whipped well. I spooned the liquid into the tins then put them in to bake.

Meanwhile, I made a simple blueberry compote with frozen organic blueberries and a little sugar and water. After the mini-pies (or “cup-pies,” in Pushing Daisies vernacular) were baked, I spooned some compote on each. The problem, really, is how to get the tartlets out of the muffin tins. The crust was a little too thin for such a wet filling. On top of that, they were filled too high, and some of the custard spilled out between the crust and the tin. (I had the same problem when I made butternut squash quiche for thanksgiving, but that was OK since the baking dish was also the serving dish.)

I had to cut the tartlets out of the muffin tin. Next time, I’ll make my own crust, and I’ll make sure it is high enough over the edge to prevent spilling.

The custard recipe was supposed to be for a 9-inch pie pan, but I had quite a bit left over. So, I made a graham cracker crust in a regular pie pan and poured the rest of the custard in there. After spilling it all over the kitchen floor and in the refrigerator (where it was held until the oven was free) I baked that pie for nearly an hour. During baking, all the graham cracker rose to the top, making a sort of upside-down pie.

A Scone Again, Naturally

Tonight I made scones for the second time.

I had never been a fan of the scone. It seemed like every time I had one it was flavorless and dry. Then, earlier this year, I paid a visit to my pal Jamie down in Carson City, and one morning her mother made scones. Let me tell you, those were the most delightful baked goods I had had in a long time. Delicate orange and cranberry flavors and just the right amount of moisture. I was inspired.

A few weeks later I found myself with a bit too much milk for my cereal and decided I needed to bake something. In the past, I’ve made drop biscuits, but this time I decided to go for something different. The scones I had in NV were vegan, but I had a feeling that the typical recipe had milk. I found a recipe on the internet, and I made scones. To my pleasant surprise, they turned out well!

Fast forward several months, and I find myself in a similar milk situation. This time, I call upon my newly-acquired Tassajara Bread Book (more on the book another time). Nothing too surprising about the ingredients – I finally got to use some Cream of Tartar, yay! – but the baking method was quite new to me. The instructions asked that I cook the scones on a griddle on medium low heat, 5-7 minutes on each side. I have never in my life baked on a stove top. I did as instructed, however, employing my cast iron griddle I normally use for heating my tortillas. By golly, it worked! I think I had the heat a tad too high, but not high enough to totally ruin the batch.

In retrospect, it’s a bit like making pancakes, which I never really thought of as “baking”.