Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crab curry

I did some of my schooling in New England and there was introduced to lobster. My cousin P took me to this place in Boston’s Chinatown called Hong Kong Eatery or Cafe or something like that. It was one of those communal eating places where when things got busy anybody could sit next to you. Yes, I've been there a lot and experienced this way too much. But the very first time we were there, it wasn't crowded and P and I feasted on our own 4 person table, allowing plenty of room for all the food we ordered. We maneuvered juicy, savory chunks of lobster out of their shells, scraping bits of the amazing ginger-scallion batter with our teeth. And just like that I was hooked to lobster! I’ve taken everybody I’ve known to that little shack and they have always loved it. I've since eaten lobster many different ways and it was my most favorite crustacean for the longest time. Was you ask? was.

You see, we moved to Maryland (MD) and some of the world's best crabs come from here. I've had some really nice crab cakes but never manned up to the entire crab. I'd keep remembering the time in Kuwait when my father ordered crab, which according to his chef-friend was fresh caught from the sea surrounding the restaurant. The crab came to our table complete in its shell-y glory and my Andrew-Zimmeran-wannabe father didnt know what the heck to do with it. We tried to help using our butter knives and forks...but nada. Even the chef-friend cowered saying that although trained to cook, he'd never actually eaten it! Finally my father sent back the crab and settled for a dinner of lamb kebabs and fries. In retrospect though, what a waste of good crab!

Back to Maryland, circa 2009. My boss, turns out, is a big crab buff. Every summer he throws a crab fest and everyone working with him is invited. Novice unsuspecting moi, was a little late getting food, so I took a paper plate, got some pasta salad and sat at the only empty spot which turned out (fortunately!) to be next to people from coastal China. To my plate I gingerly added a male and female crab, not really knowing the difference other than that they were in different boxes. And then out of nowhere, I hear stern commands, “No, NO, NOOO plates!” It was the boss. After a quick apology I dumped the crabs onto the paper lined table and… got savage. My very skillful table-mates gave me the lowdown on dismantling a crab and how to even tell the gender by looking at their flip sides. The soft, sweet meat was delicious without being masked by fillers usually found in crabcakes. The flavor was enough to beat lobster, but the work involved in getting to the good stuff was too much. There was absolutely no way I could make it at home, or so I thought. Till I decided to meet my fears head on and made Crab cioppino. It was gone before I even had a chance to take a picture. Last night however, I made an Indian-ized curry version which was perfect for drowning rice. I've got to tell you, there's no point being dainty getting the meat off the shells, the best (and only way) is to get dirty. If you're too tired to crack the shells and scoop out the meat, I found that violently shaking is pretty effective in getting the meat out (with a bonus of curry splatter on your walls). As for the claws, making an indentation with your teeth and using that as a hold to pry out the shell seems the way to go. It really is a labor of love-- a love for food, which is why inspite of having two fingers pierced by the spines of the Alaskan king crab (a completely different beast from the snow crab I first cooked), I know I will make it again!


Dry roast (on shallow pan without oil) and then powder:
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 tsp corriander seeds

Grind in a blender with half a cup of water till the following resemble a paste:
6 small yellow onions, quartered
4 green chillies (thai peppers)
5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp dessicated coconut

For the curry:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp of ginger garlic paste
2 tbsp chilli powder
2 cups water
2 big clusters of alaskan king crab (about 2.5 lbs) pre-steamed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp tamarind concentrate diluted with 1 cup of water
Salt to taste


Heat oil in a shallow, wide pan. Add ground onion paste, ginger-garlic paste and chilli powder. Cook the mixture till it becomes thick, brown and leaves an oily smear when mixing around. Add the freshly roasted spice mixture. Add 2 cups of water. Check seasoning at this point and add salt, making sure that the gravy is slightly undersalted as the crab is a bit salty by itself. Next arrange the crab pieces in a single layer around the pan and then add the tamarind "water". Cover the pan and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro if desired and serve with rice.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Daring Bakers February Challenge-- Tiramisu

My little man had a stomach virus the week before and the poor baby suffered as I'd never seen him and hope never to again. And when we finally managed to nurse him back to health, I got the bug! I've never gotten a stomach bug ever, EVER. All those years of roadside feasting in Kuwait and India, never! Anyways, we are all better now and its time to think about cooking, baking to be precise.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Here's their recipe and my pictures! The pictures are a bit sad but were the best I could do under the circumstances. Better ones next time, promise!!

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:

1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar

1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chi
lled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.

Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese


474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)

This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.