Crab Fat Stew
Crab fat is a special ingredient.
A solid fat stored in the lateral spines of a heavy crab that is preparing to molt, crab fat is rarely sold commercially. When it is, it is usually labeled “crab roe,” and contains some of the mustard and more often than not, quite a bit of shell. Obscure and somewhat labor-intensive, it is not the sort of ingredient that you can find on grocery store shelves. Recipes for it are uncommon, and the name is usually enough to elicit confusion from people not in the know. So what makes it worth it?
To me, crab fat represents time spent with friends and family. The best way to procure it is to spend time around a table full of loved ones, picking crabs on a hot summer evening, carefully sorting the bright yellow to amber orange fat from the succulent meat. Over a few beers and conversation, the crab fat that isn’t gobbled up is set aside, to be frozen and eventually used for a recipe like this one. It is a pleasure that is experienced twice, revisited when I open my freezer to find cheerful golden fat ready to be transformed into yet another dish to be relished with the people I cherish most.
Rich, dense, and slightly grainy, crab fat possesses a subtle briny sweetness that pairs beautifully with cream or butter preparations. Start saving your crab fat early in the summer, and if you pick crabs as often as we do, by the time the weather starts cooling off, you’ll have plenty stored up.
crab fat stew
Cook time: 1 hour
4 cups yukon gold potatoes, peeled & diced
1 cup peeled cipollini onions, halved
1 small onion, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick butter
½ cup dry sherry
4 cups crab or seafood stock
2 cups heavy cream
⅓ lb crab fat
½ lb crabmeat
1 lb snakehead fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces (you can substitute any mild, firm white fish- monkfish, mahi, halibut, swordfish, wahoo etc.)
1 lb PEI Mussels (optional- substitute shrimp, lobster, scallops, oysters or clams as desired)
1/2 bunch chives, green onion, or garlic scapes (optional, to finish)
Crusty bread (optional, to finish)
Preheat oven to 350. Toss cipollini onions in a little salt and oil and roast until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Set aside.
Place potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water on the stove and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook until just fork tender, strain, and cool in an ice bath to keep from overcooking. Set aside.
While the onions and potatoes are cooking, mince onion, shallot, and garlic. Add butter to a large saucepan or small stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, shallot, and garlic, cook until somewhat translucent and fragrant, stirring often and adjusting heat as needed to prevent burning.
Add the sherry and stir, allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes, add stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in heavy cream, season with salt and white pepper to taste. Turn heat to low, add crab fat, potatoes, and cippolini onions and allow to barely simmer for 10 min.
While the soup is simmering, season fish with salt and pepper and add to oiled saute pan on medium high heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes until a golden crust forms on the edges, flip and continue to do the same on the over side. Add mussels and ladle 2 cups of the soup base into the pan and cover. Steam just until the mussels start to open. Transfer fish and mussels and pan liquid to soup base, add crab meat, bring to a simmer and serve.
Top with chopped chives or scallions (or grilled garlic scapes) and serve with plenty of crusty bread.