About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

She-Crab Soup, The Cashmere of Soups

I was most fortunate as a youngster to dine with my parents at Perdita's in Charleston, South Carolina.  As a 12 year old, it was my first fine dining experience. I got to have a few sips of wine and thought I was soooo grown up when Daddy ordered me a champagne cocktail when I turned 16. It was just a step above a Shirley Temple; champagne with a sugar cube made pink with Grenadine in the bowl of the glass. They didn't make a big deal about your age back then, I was with my parents after all.  We always started the meal with the most divine, rich she-crab soup.  The waiter would come by with a big brandy snifter and offer you a bit of sherry for the soup. I watched my parents nod yes, so I did.  I look back on this as a special time and place to be introduced to the finer things in life.  The restaurant is long gone but not the memory.

I hosted a small luncheon for a few very close friends today.  My BFFs.  We've shared 47 years of life. Nothing but the best for these ladies!  They know things about me they will take to their grave.
She-crab is difficult to find not to mention pricey, but they are just in season on the Atlantic coast.  If you live elsewhere, you'll just have to deal with he-crabs and that's not bad either.  The meat of the "she" is sweeter and has a more delicate flavor and the soup is enhanced by the orange color, texture and flavor of roe (eggs or caviar of the "she").

I consulted several recipes, the most revered being from the classic Charleston Receipts and more updated versions like Alex Hitz's of My Beverly Hills Kitchen.  I wanted the sweetness of the crab to stand out complimented by the sherry and cream, without being too heavy handed with the cream. It's like trying to put just the right makeup on a beauty.  It doesn't take much but a little creates a glamorous creature.  

2 lbs fresh lump crab, picked, and any juices
1/2 cup roe, if available
4 tbls butter
1 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup flour
5 cups fish stock (Swanson makes an acceptable brand if not homemade; no clam juice, please)
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp paprika
a few drops lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
fresh ground white pepper
1/8 tsp mace or nutmeg
Kosher salt to taste (depending on stock)
1/4 cup dry sherry + 1 tbls per serving
1/2 cup heavy cream
Chives to garnish

In a heavy dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions when the butter foams and cook stirring frequently for 2-3 mins. Add the flour and cook for another minute stirring constantly.  Add the paprika and mace, then begin adding the stock one cup at a time, stirring until smooth with each addition.  Add the sherry, garlic clove and bay leaf and let simmer on low for 20 mins or until slightly thickened.  Remove the garlic clove and bay leaf.  Add the Worcestershire, lemon juice, white pepper and salt to taste.  Add the crab and roe.  Simmer until heated through.  Do not allow to boil. Add the cream, heat through, serve immediately.  To serve put 1 tbls. of sherry in the bottom of each bowl and ladle soup over sherry or serve at table. Garnish with snipped chives.

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