Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Capellini with crab, jalapeño and mint

If you've been watching Top Chef Masters, you've seen this dish. Chef Jonathan Waxman made it a couple weeks back for one of the challenges. He said it was a big hit at his restaurant and the (amateur) judges seemed to like it quite a bit, but it didn't make sense to me. I've got enough experience at this that usually I can see how ingredients fit together; these, not so much.

I've got all four of those ingredients in the house right now. It's an odd happenstance really as jalapeños are the only one I consider a staple. I only buy those other three when I've got some particular purpose in mind and the leftovers don't last indefinitely.

I'm using canned crab, not the king crab leg Waxman calls for, but otherwise I'm following the recipe I found on the Top Chef Masters website as best I can. Unfortunately, it's missing some important details, like temperatures, cooking times. Adding the crab. I made guesses for the missing bits, but it's a simple enough recipe that I don't think I can go too far wrong.

As an aside here, does it bother the rest of you as much as it bothers me to see broken recipes on profession websites? It's surprisingly common to find recipes with unused ingredients, vague instructions or chunks missing out of the middle. I expect that from recipe sites that are made up of user-submitted content, but mass media companies really ought to do better. It's not that hard. Are there no copy editors or proof readers to look at these things? Don't the chefs with their names attached ever check?

Anyway, here's my version.

2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 jalapeño, finely diced
zest from 1/4 of a lemon
zest from 1/4 of a lime
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons mint leaves chiffinade
1/2 cup crab meat
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
juice from 1/2 of a lemon

0. Put a large pot of water on high heat. When water reaches a boil move on to step one.

1. Melt butter in a medium pan over medium heat. When it's done sizzling add jalapeño, zest, garlic and mint. Turn heat down to low and sweat the pepper and garlic for several minutes. Add crab and cook for a minute more.

2. Add pasta and a few pinches of salt to the boiling water. Cook to al dente. (capellini takes only a few minutes) When just barely done remove from water with tongs and add to the pan without draining. Mix well. Add lemon juice and a bit more water to loosen the sauce if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with a bit more mint.
And here it is. The mint and citrus have blended together mojitoly, but the crab is still distinct and I'm getting different ratios of the two flavors (plus a touch of heat) in each bite. he flavor is best, I think, when crab is in the forefront, but I only get that when I get an actual forkful of crab. Maybe that's because I'm using relatively cheap canned crab that doesn't have the intense flavor of the king crab legs Waxman uses. Also, king crab leg meat would be in chunks not tiny flakes. That probably makes a significant difference.

The flavor combination is interesting and unusual, but not a synergistic knock out like some recipes I've tried. The problem is that it's all right at the front of each bite with no follow-through. There's some element missing to round out the back end. I think chunks of king crab would help here, but lacking that it needs something else. Maybe just a little wine or shrimp stock would do it, but I'm not going to put everything back in the pan to find out.

I don't suppose any of you have been to his restaurant, Barbuto, and tried the proper version?


kat said...

The combination sounds really good to me but I can see where I little wine might be good.

LaDivaCucina said...

I too thought this an unusual combo. I think you would have had more success with more expensive crab, (I can never get enough) and the flavor would have been better too.

As for the recipes, I doubt they even test them, that would take time/money and what are they getting out of it? They are free. When I saw Ruth Reichl at her Gourmet cookbook signing in November, she brought up how many times Gourmet magazine would test a recipe. Most magazines today don't do that, it's too expensive.
(And ultimately probably why Gourmet closed) That's why recipes from Gourmet and Julia Child's cookbooks are usually fool proof, they've been tested so many times.

I stopped subscribing to a few magazines as the recipes were just not that good.