Let me start by saying that our crab meat makes some amazing crab cakes. That being said, our company mantra for the past few years has been “it’s not just for crab cakes!”. This point was hammered home to our team last week at a seafood conference in Florida. One of the lectures was on food trends and how the younger generations, Millennials in particular, are looking for new and innovative menu items and the move from the tried and true classics, like crab cakes, is beginning to appear on menus and dinner plates across the country. The lectures were followed by a company presentation with a tasting of products. Of the dozen vendors presenting to a group of seafood buyers for national chain, retail and food distributors, I felt very confident in the menu I had planned for that afternoon.
Over the past nine years that I have been with Newport International allot has changed in the seafood business and the food business as a whole. Consumers are much better educated and their expectations in all aspects of their purchasing process have evolved. People want a “global experience in a local setting” and we try very hard to show our product as it can apply to almost all types of end users. The sweet, mild flavor of our crab lends itself to most ethnic cuisines as well as on trend and seasonal applications. This was the menu I was going to make.
With a little over an hour to put together a four course tasting for 15 guests, I started working on the menu. Something light, something rich & decadent, something seasonal and a very twist on a rather standard menu item. Having lived in New England for most of my life, I have consumed more than my fair share of lobster rolls (including a 5 day trip this year to Portland, Maine, the lobster mecca). They are all usually good (even a “bad” lobster roll is still usually pretty good) but some really stand out. One of my favorite one’s is from Abbots Lobster in Noank, CT. Fresh steamed lobster piled on a hamburger roll and covered in melted butter. I wanted to take this idea, substitute crab for lobster and up the flavor profile a bit. First we made a compound butter with sweated shallot, ginger, a touch of garlic and some Meyer lemon juice. Then we toasted a brioche roll with butter and lined with a piece of Boston/butter lettuce, tossed crab with the butter and place a small scoop in on top of the lettuce. Simple with a slight twist, a great start to a crab meal.
Next was the seasonal offering and a little something lighter on the palate. Key lime juice and honey pickled red onions were the first step. Then some very thinly sliced fennel for a bright, anise flavored crunch. Some baby arugula for a peppery bite and a 3 citrus and EVOO vinaigrette. Toss it all together with some jumbo lump crab and garnish with some orange supremes and you have a beautiful and flavorful seasonal crab salad.
Tacos seem to be on almost every menu in some for or another. What about a “crispy crab taco with mixed pepper escabeche”? Well to make it unique the tacos are made from fresh soft corn tortillas, a little spicy chipotle pulped avocado and topped with the roasted and pickled peppers and red onion. For the crispy part, we individually breaded and fried pieces of our Jumbo Lump crab. I crisp and crunchy panko breadcrumb crust hiding the sweet delicate crab meat. This was the risky dish as we have never tried this method and surprisingly the pieces of crab held up quite well to the process after a few adjustments to the consistency of the batter.
The final dish was a slight update on one of the most classic crab dishes, Steak Oscar. The asparagus was served a little different as we shaved it into long strips (like asparagus linguini) and sautéed until just soft before serving. For the steak I chose a NY Strip seared over hardwood charcoal and sliced. Pieces of Jumbo Lump Crab are set on top and lightly covered with a hollandaise sauce. Of course it wasn’t your standard hollandaise, we made ours with brown butter and Meyer lemon juice adding a rich nutty flavor countered by the bright, floral notes of the citrus.
As we continue to look for new applications for our crab meat, we will continue to share new ideas on ways to wow your guests with crab!