On A Roll With Succulent Crab

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - June 07, 2006
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Being a food writer, I’ve dined in some of the finest restaurants all over the world. But one of my favorite ways to dine is eating crab from a trash can!

Now in its seventh year, Dixie Grill’s Crabfest is an annual extravaganza that showcases dozens of preparations. I would like to dedicate this week’s column to all the staff at Dixie Grill - Ruth and her crew at Aiea, Patrick and the gang at Ward Avenue - and invite you to learn more about what makes crab one of the most popular seafood items in the world!

And with the restaurant’s compliments, try this Crab Fest favorite - a spin on the very famous New England-style lobster roll.

Crabs are found in salt, fresh and briny water, and hide under rocks, in seaweed, and in cracks and crevices. There are about 4,000 species of crab, the most common being the green or shore crab, the Atlantic common crab, the snow crab, the blue crab and the Pacific common crab. Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs that have shed their outgrown shells, and are caught shortly after they molt.

Crab is not very fleshy and only about a quarter of the body is edible. The lean white meat is very flavorful.

Live crab should be moving, and when purchasing frozen crab, make sure that it is not dried out or covered with frost, as the meat is not fresh. Crab meat is rich in vitamin B12, copper, niacin and zinc.


For Crab Salad:

* 1/2 pound fully cooked crab meat (use your favorite pulled from the shell: blue, snow or, if desperate, imitation crab will work)
* 1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
* 1/4 cup bottled good-quality mayonnaise ( may use reduced-fat)
* 1/2 tablespoon fresh tarragon
* 2 small scallions, thinly sliced
* kosher or sea salt, to taste
* freshly ground pepper
* 2 to 3 New England-style hot dog buns **
* 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (may use Smart Balance margarine)
* pickles and your favorite potato salad or slaw

Prepare the crab salad.

Cut the crab meat into 1/2-inch dice. You may pick all the meat from the carcass and add it to the meat or freeze the carcass for soup or broth.

Place the cucumber in a colander for at least 5 minutes to drain the excess liquid. Combine the lobster, cucumber, mayonnaise and tarragon. Add the scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat a large, heavy skillet (12 to 14 inches) over medium-low heat (a black cast-iron pan is perfect). Lightly butter both sides of each bun. **If you cannot get actual New England buns, try carefully slicing off the sides of your favorite hoagie roll or hot dog bun. Place them in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Turn the buns over and toast the other side. Or toast the buns under a broiler instead.

When the buns are ready, stuff them with the chilled crab salad. Add a little diced romaine lettuce in the bun first for a little crunch, if you like. Place each roll on a small plate; garnish with pickles and your favorite potato salad or cole slaw. Serve at once!

(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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