Leftovers par excellence
March 3, 2016
There are leftovers, and then there are leftovers.
When one has king crab leg meat left over, one carefully saves it. That stuff is expensive. Also very good, and I believe it would probably be a sin to waste it.
So one recycles it. One could do so in crab cakes, or in most any number of other applications. I chose to do so in an old favorite, which you see variously labeled as crab imperial or crab au gratin. I’ll go with the au gratin appellation, for no particular reason.
Since I didn’t have much more than one decent sized serving of crabmeat left after the king crab legxtravaganza t’other evening, I picked up a bag of frozen small, precooked and peeled shrimp at the grocery. Nothing remained but to make the sauce and stash it in the oven for a few.
Start out with the classic Creole/Cajun base for most everything: Make a roux. This one will be a blonde roux; that is, you will not brown the flour to the deep dark color you want for gumbo and suchlike. This only cooks until the raw flour becomes cooked flour, a somewhat indefinable period.
Put about 1/2 stick butter in a saucepan and melt it. Add about 1/4 cup flour and stir it in to make a paste; let it cook on medium heat for a bit, until it starts to smell nutty and the raw flour smell is gone. If I had to guess, I’d say this would take some five minutes or so.
Pour in a cup or so of milk; I use whole. Measurement is not critical at this point. You can add milk a whole lot easier than you can take it out, so err on the side of caution, here. Whisk up the roux into the milk, and leave it alone for a few minutes to bring the milk up to temp and let it thicken and start thinking about boiling.
Then add some cheese. I use a combo, based essentially on what’s on hand. Most recently, it was a combo pecorino romano, aged gouda and cream cheese. Stir that in to the sauce — I like it cheesy, so a good cup of grated cheese, and more would not go amiss. Hold back a half-cup of one kind or another; I held back a half-cup of pecorino. Stir until everything melts. If it’s too thick, add some milk. If it’s too thin, cook longer.
When the sauce is pretty much as you want it, stir in the seafood. I had about a cup of crabmeat and added a cup of shrimp to serve three people. I had only semi-defrosted the shrimp, which I think I have said were precooked.
Everything goes into little ramekins; I did rather larger ramekins, as there were three of us, and I know my girls and my appetite when seafood is concerned. It could probably have made four.
Remember your reserved cheese? Take it, and mix in bread crumbs (I used panko, because I had it) and a hefty pinch of nutmeg. Sprinkle that atop your ramekins, and into the oven at 400 it goes.
While I was about that, I prepped some asparagus, drizzled it with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, and popped it in the oven right alongside the little casseroles.
People. This elevates leftovers out of the realm of the ordinary (not that shrimp and crabmeat are really in the realm of the ordinary to start with). It is astoundingly good. And if your sauce-to-seafood ratio is such that you can dip your asparagus spears in the cheese sauce, that ain’t no bad thing.
This prep would lend itself to most any white, flaky seafood; you could do cod, or scallops, or halibut, even maybe salmon. Child A thought it would be good as a pasta sauce, and that has possibilities. Tilapia or catfish filets would work as well.
You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em have any leftover fish, try this one.