A Sicilian Stuffed Shrimp Specialty

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - June 01, 2005
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Gail Ann Chew, the new executive director of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, is just back from attending her first National Restaurant Association convention in Chicago.

She spent 14 years at the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau before heading out on her own to do marketing and teaching at Hawaii Pacific University.

Gail spearheaded the HVCB “Chefs of Aloha” program, being praised by Chef Mark Ellman of Maui Tacos for her “leadership, compassion and vision which was something one does not see every day.”

While in Chicago, Gail visited many restaurants and was given many introductions to national leaders by such longtime attendees as Ed Wary, who spent more than a decade as Hawaii’s delegate to the NRA.

Now that Gail is home, she’s just in time for Ed’s annual Crabfest at Dixie Grill, which runs the entire month of June. She’s looking forward to sampling new featured menu items such as Nana’s Crab Stuffed Shrimps, a recipe created by his mother, Gilda “Nana” Wary, in her Sicilian kitchen. So here’s a recipe dedicated to Gail and all the leaders in the restaurant industry.

Of the approximately 4,000 different species of crab, here are some of the most common.

• Common shore crab, or green crab. This is the single most common species and often found on beaches. It weighs about seven ounces and contains very little flesh. It is rarely sold commercially and often used as bait.

• Atlantic common crab. Also known as “edible crab,” it has very flavorful flesh.

• Velvet swimming crab. Covered with velvety hair, this species flesh is very highly sought after.

• Snow crab. The male of the species is much larger than the female and most often sought, as it can be more than five inches in width and weigh about three pounds. It has a unique flavored flesh that is highly sought after.

• Pacific common crab. Weighs between two and four pounds. This species is sold live, cooked, canned and frozen. It has a delicious tasting flesh.

• Blue crab. This species is very popular in the U.S. and thrives in Atlantic coastal waters. It is also known as “Atlantic blue crab.” It has a sweet flesh that is excellent for most dishes.

• Soft-shelled crabs. These are blue crabs that have shed their shells and have not replaced them. They are usually caught when they begin to molt, which is between mid May and mid- September. Many people regard these as a delicacy. These are usually sold live, and prepared sautéed or fried.

When purchasing live crab, make sure the limbs are still moving, and hold the crab by the rear to avoid the pincers. When purchasing frozen crab, avoid meat that is dried out or covered with frost, as the meat is not fresh.

Crab meat is rich in vitamin B12, niacin, copper and zinc.

NANA’S CRAB-STUFFED SHRIMPS

Note: I have added some substitutions to lower fat and cholesterol. You may also sauté the vegetables in cooking spray, if desired.

• 2 pounds jumbo shrimp (16⁄20 to a pound)

• 1 cup minced celery

• 1 cup minced yellow onion

• 1 cup minced green bell pepper

• 1⁄2 cup minced red bell pepper

• 6 ounces crab meat

• 4 tablespoons butter, melted (may use Smart Balance Light margarine)

• 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

• 4 tablespoons crab stock (can substitute shrimp stock or clam juice)

• 1⁄4 cup minced fresh parsley

• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

• 2 stacks Ritz ® Crackers, crushed (may use low-fat Ritz® instead)

• paprika, for garnish

Sauté celery, onion and peppers in butter until onions are wilted. Remove from burner. Add Ritz ®Crackers,Worcestershire sauce, crab meat, parsley, red pepper flakes, and stock. Mix well, but lightly. Mixture should be moist, but not mushy. If too dry, add a little more stock. If too wet, add more crackers.

To stuff shrimp: Peel with tails on. Butterfly shrimps by cutting down the back. Remove vein. Put 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of stuffing on top of each shrimp. As Nana would say, “Use your own judgment” on the amount of stuffing. Give each shrimp a nice sprinkling of paprika on top when stuffed.

Bake shrimp in a 350 degree oven in a lightly buttered casserole dish until shrimp are pink (about 15 minutes).

Makes four to six servings.

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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