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Fettuccine with Crab and Fennel

The anise notes of fennel are a good match for the rich, sweet flavor of crab in this dish. Seek out the freshest premium lump crabmeat you can find; it should be moist, not dry. Since lump crabmeat comes precooked, it should be just heated through when added to the sauce. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. egg pasta (see related recipe at left)
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, bruised
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 lb. lump crabmeat, picked over for shell fragments and cartilage and flaked
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 Tbs. kosher salt

Directions:

Roll out the pasta dough and cut into fettuccine. Let dry for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.

Cut off the stems and feathery tops and remove any bruised outer stalks from the fennel bulb. Pinch off a handful of tiny sprigs from the feathery tops and reserve for garnish. Slice off the tough bottom of the bulb, then quarter the bulb lengthwise. Cut out and discard the tough core. Remove the outer stalks and reserve for another use. Mince the light green heart of the bulb (you should have about 3 Tbs.) and set aside.

In a large pot over high heat, bring 5 quarts water to a rapid boil.

While the water is heating, make the sauce: In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the carrot, shallot, garlic, parsley and minced fennel and cook gently, stirring occasionally to prevent browning, until the vegetables are thoroughly softened and aromatic, about 7 minutes. Stir in the sherry and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until most of the alcohol has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the cream and warm just until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the crab and stir just until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, season with sea salt and white pepper, and cover to keep warm.

Just before the sauce is ready, add the kosher salt and pasta to the boiling water and cover the pot. When the water returns to a boil, uncover and cook for about 5 seconds and then drain. Add the pasta to the sauce in the fry pan and toss until the strands are well coated with the sauce. Transfer to a warmed large, shallow serving bowl or individual shallow bowls and garnish with the fennel sprigs. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book, by Julia della Croce (Weldon Owen, 2010).