Crab and apples are good when eaten alone, but great when eaten together. This dish succeeds not on the intensity of a single ingredient, but because of the delicate balance between the crab and apple.
My first attempt at this dish was based on a recipe from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook that used cucumber gelée. Perhaps it was the cucumber I used or my unfamiliarity with gelatinized vegetables, but whatever the reason, I couldn’t force myself to eat more than a spoonful of the gelée. I later came across a similar recipe by Daniel Boulud of Restaurant Daniel in New York which used granny smith apples instead of cucumbers. After some trial and error, I decided to combine Keller’s crab salad and Boulud’s apple gelée with a few changes to suit my tastes and kitchen equipment. The combination is delicious, refreshing and elegant.
Green Apple Gelée
(adapted from Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud Cookbook by Daniel Boulud)
- 7 large granny smith apples
- ½ tsp plus powdered Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ¼ cup and 1 tbsp cup water
- 1 tsp powdered gelatine
In a small bowl, combine gelatine with 1 tbsp water and let sit for five minutes.
Core six apples and dice coarsely into small pieces. Add apples (with skin) into a food processor or blender to make a coarse purée. Working in batches, wrap purée in cheesecloth, and squeeze the bundle into a bowl to extract juice. Stir in 3/8 tsp vitamin C and sugar until dissolved. Add more vitamin C if the mixture begins to turn brown.
In a double boiler (or a bowl over a pot of simmering water) combine gelatine and half of the purée. Stir until gelatine dissolves, and return to apple juice mixture. Strain mixture into another bowl.
Core and peel one apple and cut into very thin slices. Cut ¼-inch strips from each slice in two directions to create small diamonds. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup water with 1/8 tsp vitamin C and let apple diamonds soak in mixture until ready to use.
Place six shallow bowls on a level surface in the refrigerator. Pour ¼ cup apple juice mixture into each bowl and add a few apple diamonds to garnish. Refrigerate for at least three hours or until set.
Dungeness Crab Salad with Frisée
(adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller)
Before making the salad, the crabs need to be cooked in court bouillon and removed from their shells. Court bouillon (pronounced koor bwee-YAWN) is an acidic vegetable stock used for poaching seafood and fish. The stock’s acid makes flesh firm and white, and the stock’s osmotic pressure keeps flavours inside the crab.
Choose live crabs that are active, heavy for their size, and with hard shells. The crabs can be cooked the day before and refrigerated until the salad is made.
- 3 quarts water
- 2 carrots, cut into ½-inch rounds
- 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped onions
- 1 cup leeks, split lengthwise, washed and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 medium fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 cup crisp, dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
- ½ cup dry white wine vinegar
- 1 lemon
- 3 outer leek leaves, washed
- 5 sprigs Italian (flat leaf) parsley
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 ½ cups crab meat from 2 Dungeness crabs,
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tsps whole-grain Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and white pepper to taste
- 1 bunch frisée lettuce
- 3 tbsps finely grated daikon radish
- Extra virgin olive oil
In a large pot, combine water, vegetables and peppercorns.
To make the bouquet garni, lay out 1 leek leaf and place parsley, thyme and bay leaves inside. Wrap with the remaining leek leaves to form a circular bundle. Tie together with string, and place in pot.
Bring the pot’s contents to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add white wine and wine vinegar. Halve a lemon and squeeze its juice into the pot; add the lemon halves to the pot.
Place one crab into the simmering court bouillon, return to a simmer and cook for four minutes. Remove crab and repeat with the remaining crab. Remove pot from heat and place crabs back into court bouillon. Allow liquid to cool until it reaches room temperature. When cool, remove crabs from their shells and sift through meat to remove any small pieces of shell.
In a medium bowl, whip heavy cream until it forms ribbons (just before soft peaks). Whisk in mustard, salt and pepper. Gradually add cream mixture to crab meat until it binds the crab together.
In a small bowl, toss frisée with daikon, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper.
Fill a 2 to 2 ½-inch high ring mold with 1 ½ inches of crab salad. Insert several pieces of frisée into the salad. Slip your hand underneath the ring mold and place over the chilled apple gelée. Remove the ring mold. Repeat with remaining dishes and serve immediately or refrigerate several minutes before serving.
Makes six servings.