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Dungeness Crab Bisque

Dungeness Crab Bisque
Although Dungeness crabs provide the most meat, any variety—such as king, snow or blue crabs—may be used in this traditional bisque.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Dungeness crabs, 1 to 1 1/2 lb. each, cooked
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups bottled clam juice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbs. Cognac or other good-quality brandy
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

First, clean and crack the crabs: Twist off the legs and claws and set aside. Place each crab on its back and pull off the small triangular apron-shaped shell flap, then insert your thumb underneath the top shell and pull it off. Remove the dark gray intestines and the feather-shaped white spongy gills from the body and discard. Rinse the crab body well. Break the body in half and remove the meat from the cavities. Using a mallet, crack the legs in several places and remove the meat. Set aside the crabmeat in a bowl. Crack the large claws and carefully remove the meat from each claw in a single piece. Slice the meat and set aside for garnish. Using kitchen shears, cut the shells into small pieces; set aside.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the crab shells, tomatoes, wine and tarragon, if using. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir to mix well. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a bowl, combine the clam juice and water. Combine one-third of the clam juice mixture and one-third of the shell mixture in a blender. Pulse briefly to break up the shells. Place a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth over a bowl. Pour the contents of the blender through the sieve. Repeat with the remaining clam juice and shell mixtures in 2 batches. Transfer to a clean soup pot.

Place the pot over low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the cream, brandy and cayenne and season with salt and pepper. Add the reserved crabmeat and heat through. Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with the claw meat. Serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Winter, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).