Wanted – Dead or Alive: Crab for Supper.

The British have a certain way with words. We find it difficult to be too direct – a fine asset in some situations. There are however, times when we simply fail to say what we mean. Take dressed crab for instance.
My immediate vision is, admittedly somewhat bizarre – say, a cheeky little black dress, string of pearls with kitten heels. Common sense soon takes a hold and I re-focus. We, in the foodie inner junta know this is a diplomatic way of describing the finished item for the table – all the nasty bits have been done with tongs, pliers, hammers and the like. No mess, no evidence, just fabulous crab meat , sitting gently in its shell, no need even for a plate.
British reserve is intact – job done, details are scarce and not required.
NOT SO IN FRANCE!
Our Gallic cousins don’t mince their words, when it comes to food “Tourteau” or crab for eating is a far more unwieldy creature – it is possible to get it cooked, but NEVER dressed.
I feel my life has been too sheltered on the culinary front, and am not too brave on the kill it, eat it front.
I spend my first crab season here, wandering up and down the fish stalls looking for a cooked crab. What is so embarrassing, is that I got myself a bit of a reputation as “La Folle Galloise” – the one who constantly asked politely “Les Tourteaux…………..ils sont morts???”
I have to share the sad fact with those reading this, I was frightened of something that might might make a lunge at me while I was “dressing” it. Too Hitchcock for my liking.
My first experience with a cooked crab, went relatively well – This was because I laid it on the centre of a large white cloth………and watched it for about half and hour before making my attack. Yes, its’ pathetic I know.
Even more so when youngsters at the local restaurant take to the precision surgery that is eating crab with effortless agility and panache, gaily splattering all those around them with various bits of……….well, you get the picture.
I felt it was a rite of passage to cook a live crab and dress it – not to mention the guarantee of the freshest product available – It made so much sense.
So, a few weeks ago, I went to see the very sympathetic Ann Sophie at the local Friday market. She picked me out a nice crab, and then gave me careful instructions to prepare a court bouillon – I have the ingredients pictured above – rock salt, peppercorns, thyme and bay. I was told to bring the water, seasoning and herbs to the boil and then cool.
The crab was placed in the cold liquid and brought to the boil once more and kept at a rolling simmer for 20 minutes.
I then drained it, chilled it, dressed (!) it, and ate it. Wonderful.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Gald you enjoyed your crab…like all foods, most delicious at its simplest.
    ronelle

  2. Elisabeth says:

    We had (naked?) crab too. Luckily my partner is a whizz at getting the meat out. Too fiddly for me. Thanks for contemplating entering my first blog competition! I am adding you to my blog roll – and did you know you come top of the Google search when I enter ‘Haddock in the Kitchen’!?

  3. dragonlife says:

    Crabs!
    Wherever you go, there are there (well, most of the time!).
    Therefore I do not regret too much living in Japan (lol) where the number of species just make you feel dizzy!
    Anyway, tourteaux are best frehly poached and chilled with a real home-made mayonnaise!
    Cheers,
    Robert-Gilles

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