Monday, January 09, 2006

Oh, Crab!

All last week dinner was made up of anything I could find in my cupboards or that could be bought on my way home. Being utterly unaccustomed to commuting from home to office and back, and spending eight hours each day talking or typing, evenings saw me completely knackered, unable to move a muscle once my butt hit the couch. Thus, my dinner menu last week read like a college kid's -- essentially, pot noodles and McDonald's.

By the weekend I was craving some proper grub and when I bought those crabs on Saturday, I had it in mind to make something that would see me through most of the following weeknights. And for that I turned to my favourite recipe from Nigella Lawson's How To Eat. This Crab and Saffron Tart is the bee's knees. It can be a cinch to make, especially if you buy ready-made pie shells like I sometimes do from Culina. Alas, this little gourmet store has stopped selling savoury short crust pastry shells of late and now only stock the sweet (really sweet, actually) variety. No matter, though -- you can still roll out some ready-made frozen pastry and bake that blind to start with.

Over the weekend however, I felt like a little work in the kitchen. So I decided to make my own tart pastry from scratch. All the conditions were perfect for it. It rained hard all day (which meant cool, cool weather; as cool as it ever gets in Singapore) and I needed the kind of therapy that only pastry making offers -- a kind of strange Zen that comes from carefully grinding butter with flour and patting the ball of dough gently with ice-cold hands and iced water before rolling it out with gentle care. I usually turn to the pie dough recipe from my trusty Baking At Home With The Culinary Institute of America, but that day, I thought, why not give Nigella's pastry recipe a shot.

I am pleased to report that her tart pastry recipe rendered a wonderfully crisp and slightly flaky crust that stood up well to the wobbly custard filling. On a side note, I have to admit that I often approach Ms Lawson's recipes -- especially for cakes and pastries -- with some measure of dubiousness. If you own a copy of How To Be A Domestic Goddess and tried more than a few recipes from that book, I'm sure you'll understand my doubt. But I digress.

The tart's filling is simply exquisite -- lining its bottom is a thin layer of a wonderfully robust tomato sauce infused with garlic, thyme and a single bay leaf. On top of that goes a custard fragrant with the goodness of saffron and fresh crab meat, which is cooked to a quivering mass that melds all the flavours together harmoniously. When it comes out of the oven, the cooked custard literally heaves and sighs, rising and falling like a sexy, tasty bosom. That alone is enough to make anyone want to attack it lovingly with a knife and shovel a healthy slice straight from knife to mouth.

Indeed as Ms Lawson comments in her book, this tart is best served "neither hot nor cold, but warm; this is at its paradisal, slightly baveuse best about 50 minutes to an hour after it comes out of the oven."

"And," she continues, "I have found that you can bring any fridge-cold leftover wedges back to optimum, faintly runny room temperature in a low microwave...And if you do have any left over, it is worth cutting into individual fat slices and freezing like that, only to resuscitate them for a perfect, gloriously luxurious dinner for yourself in the evenings ahead."

Which is exactly what I did. By the way, dinner tonight was just divine. I can't wait to do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next. But don't worry, by week's end I won't want to look at it ever again.

The tart used up the flesh of just two crabs, and with the third I decided to go local and do a Pepper Crab. If you're as much of a crab fiend as I am, I'm sure your next question would be, "how can you have just one pepper crab??" Relax. This little piggy went to market again on Sunday morning, headed straight for the slightly amused crab seller and bought two more of those delicious crustaceans. And so for dinner Greedy Goose and my dear partner C, supped on spicy pepper crabs. You can see how greedy I got from the picture here.

I couldn't even muster the effort to style it or care about lighting. In fact, as soon as i set the dish on the table, I tucked in and instructed C to take the picture. Good man that he is, he obliged. Burp!


Blogger *kel said...

oh yumm, i'm jealous of that spicy peppered crab dinner you devoured! can you by any chance share the pepper crab and pie crust recipe you used?

6:48 am  
Blogger *kel said...

Oh Eggy, I finally got around to post the first of my french food check out the raclette post.

6:50 am  
Anonymous mumu said...

Not really a crab person myself, but those look really good to eat, esp the crab tart.

And I know the feeling of getting back into the whole commuting thing -- it's difficult for people like us who have been working at home. last year I had to sit in at an office for two weeks. Felt like a zombie the whole two weeks. And those sleep-inducing afternoons after lunch!

9:23 am  
Blogger Paz said...

What a dinner! I'm so impressed that you made the pastry from scratch.


9:32 am  
Blogger Eggy said...

Kel:I'm jealous your your Paris trip! Will post the recipes in a bit.

Mumu: YES! Having to leave the comfort of my bedroom especially during the last couple of days with all that rain is just too painful!

Paz: Thanks for the well-wishes. Pity you don't live closer! Though your pictures of New York winding down from the holidays are just divine.

11:29 am  

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