Fancy is NOT as fancy does
February 29, 2016
Want to impress folks with a knockout dinner? One that takes you less than 30 minutes (and a day’s forethought) to prepare?
Cook some king crab legs.
Yeah, those things. In part, they’re impressive looking because they can be, if not disjointed, better than two feet long (there’s a REASON that crab was king, folks!). In part, it’s because for most diners, they’re a special occasion, dinner-out kind of splurge.
They’re also dead easy to cook.
I bought, on a whim, a box of crab legs from Schwan’s. When they finally arrived (THAT was an adventure, and we’ll see if my second order, which includes another box of them, is that difficult to procure), I stashed them in the freezer and waited for an appropriate evening. Last Saturday seemed to be that evening.
So during the day Saturday, I Googled “how to cook king crab legs,” as I had never done so before. (I do love the Interwebs!) Several sites agreed the best method was to steam them for 10 minutes; no seasoning needed, just clarified butter to dip them in. OK, I can do that. Swung by the grocery to pick up sugar snap peas to steam as well. What more did we need? Nothing.
I’d set the crab legs out of the freezer and into the fridge to defrost a day ahead, as instructed. A note: as they thaw, they’ll give off some liquid. It seemed to me to be practical to snip a corner off the bag, drain the liquid into the sink, and then set the snipped end down in a bowl in the fridge to continue the thawing process. I can testify the taste is not harmed by thawing for two days, instead of one, because your dinner plans change, either.
Also note: The Schwan’s description of the crab legs says the box serves four. They lie. It MIGHT serve three if one of ’em wasn’t very hungry. But me? I loves me some crab legs, and Child A is very much my child in that respect. Plan on feeding two, or buying two boxes.
Anyway. Take a big pot with a steamer insert. Put some water in the bottom, stick the steamer in — make sure water is below the level of the steamer bottom — turn the heat on high and cover the pot. When it comes to a boil, turn it down to low, put the crab legs in, spreading them out as much as possible, and cover it again. Set your timer for 10 minutes. When it goes off, they’re done.
Ain’t much any easier than that. All that remains is to figure out how to get inside those little buggers, and for that, I give kudos to Schwan’s, because they slit the shells lengthwise along the larger sections of leg. I took a pair of lineman’s pliers I inherited from my Daddy to the knuckles and claws, and the smaller, last sections of the legs, I just broke by hand.
In the interest of comfortably eating off my lap, I shelled all my crab legs before I sat down. The shells would have made a fine fish stock, and I contemplated that, but I had neither the inclination nor the freezer space to put it.
At the same time I was steaming the crab legs, I steamed some sugar snap peas. Those, too, are pretty simple, and there’s little that’s any better.
String the peas. All of them may not have strings, but the ones that do need to lose them. Wash them — I never cut mine up — and go through the same steamer steps as the crab legs. Use a big enough pot you can spread them out a bit; I used a smaller one, and as a result the ones on top stayed a bit too crunchy.
When they’re done, put them in a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of butter. Some people like to salt them, but I want the sweet, fresh taste of the pea to come through.
I didn’t season the crab at all, either, except, as noted, to attempt to clarify some butter in which to dip it. Now, clarifying butter involves melting it so the milk solids will coagulate on the top, leaving the clear, golden butterfat on the bottom. The only way I knew to do it, since I didn’t have a fat separator (above) was to skim the fat off with a spoon. I have never been able to do this without losing some of the butterfat, thus leaving in the dipping butter, which doesn’t hurt the taste but doesn’t look as pretty.
Then I found this idea for a “McGyverized” fat separator, which looks to me like it’s at least worth a try. I will be doing that on the next batch. Or buying a jar of ghee at the Indian market.
The best thing? Dinner, from starting to cook to getting it on the plates, took way less than 30 minutes.
The half-a-serving or so of crab I had leftover will go in with some shrimps tonight to make seafood au gratin, which I dearly love. Stand by for details on that later in the week.
I am not going to invite you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em for crab legs; they’re way too expensive, and while I love ya, that’s out of my price range. But I will advise you to buy you some and giving cooking your own a whirl. You’ll impress folks.