Spanner Crab Salad

Spanner crab salad

“Picking crab meat from its shell need not be boring and frustrating …
it’s like undressing a beautiful woman in a tricky dress.”

                                                           ~ Chopinand, co-author ChopinandMysaucepan

~~~~~~~~o~~~~~~~~

After our lunch at Flying Fish last Saturday during the Easter long weekend, I was inspired to replicate the delicious spanner crab salad which I had for my entree.

“Spanner crab meat, palm hearts, finger lime, Sichuan oil and crisp duck skin, how difficult can that recipe be?” I ask Mysaucepan.

“Well, you can give it a go. I’m sure it can’t be too far off” she says.

This is the thing about seafood restaurants in Sydney – most of the seafood is so fresh, I believe only very minimal cooking is required to bring out its flavours. To me, it is almost criminal to overcook such fresh and delicate seafood.

Finger limes may not be quite as easily available but I think pink grapefruit would be a really decent alternative” I thought to myself.

As for the rest of the ingredients, I can put my own spin into it as I visualize a beautiful looking dish in my mind.

“The colour combination of vibrant orange, fluorescent pink, bright green would look awesome on the plate” I say to Mysaucepan. “And I still have that air-tight bottle of crispy duck skin which I made a few weeks ago from that whole duck which you bought so there would be absolutely zero cooking for this salad!”.

So here is my take on Flying Fish restaurant’s spanner crab salad and I am thrilled with how it turned out on my very first attempt.

Spanner Crab Salad with pink grapefruit, flying fish roe and crisp duck skin

Cooked spanner crabs from Sydney Fish Market

Cooked spanner crabs from Sydney Fish Market

If you have not seen a spanner crab before, it does look like something out of an alien sci-fi movie.

Its head is ugly with its menacing three-point horns and the flat pincers look very similar to spanners which I believe is how this crab derived its name.

Cooked spanner crabs from Sydney Fish Market

Cooked spanner crabs from Sydney Fish Market

The two spanner crabs we got from the Sydney Fish Market are approximately 700 grams each.

And the best thing about these crabs is you can buy them cooked to save cooking time although I have seen life spanner crabs too.

Extracting the spanner crab meat

Underside of a cooked spanner crab

Underside of a cooked spanner crab

To extract the meat from the spanner crab, turn the crab upside down and start by breaking off all the legs at the joint where the legs meet the body of the crab.

Check out the underside of the spanner crab – does it look ugly to you?

Remove all the crab legs and lift the top shell from the back of the crab

Remove all the crab legs and lift the top shell from the back of the crab

Once you have removed all the legs and pincers, remove the top shell and you will find that most of the meat is in the body of the crab although the fatter legs do have some meat as well.

Yes, it is quite a messy affair

Yes, it is quite a messy affair

Extracting crab meat can be quite testing especially when I am generally an impatient person.

I use a combination of the back of a kitchen knife (as a hammer to break hard crab shells) and a pair of kitchen scissors to snip the softer leg shells to extract the meat.

Tip 1: Organise beforehand so that you have all the utensils such as the knife, scissors, bowl and tea towels etc  within easy reach since your hands are going to be messy from this process once you begin.

Tip 2: Use the scissors to snip the softer leg shell as the harder crab shell can be brittle. The last thing you want is tiny bits of irritating crab shells in your salad!

These two spanner crabs yield approximately two cups of meat.

How to prepare crisp duck skin (optional for this recipe)

Rendering the fat from duck skin in a hot non-stick pan

Rendering the fat from duck skin in a hot non-stick pan

I happen to have a large bottle of crisp duck skin in the fridge from cooking a whole duck a few weeks before – how convenient!

Here’s how I made crisp duck skin:

1. Heat a non-stick pan until very hot.

2. Season the diced duck skin and fat with a generous amount of salt and add to the hot pan. The skin and fat should immediately start to sizzle.

3. Turn off the heat immediately when the skin becomes golden brown. Drain fat and transfer the duck skin onto kitchen paper to blot off excess fat.

4. When the duck skin is cooled completely, refrigerate in an air-tight bottle.

You don’t even need to oil the pan as the duck fat will immediately start to render from the heat of the pan.

Duck skin turning golden brown as fat being rendered

Duck skin turning golden brown as fat being rendered

One of the best things about cooking fresh duck is being able to use the entire duck. The duck Marylands are perfect for a confit while the duck breasts can be used for a different dish altogether.

Duck bones and the carcass can be roasted and made into flavoursome stock.

Crispy duck skin sizzling in a hot pan

Crispy duck skin sizzling in a hot pan

Tip 3: Pour the duck fat from the pan into a bottle and it can be kept in the freezer for months. One of the best uses for duck fat is to brush on hand-cut potato chips to be baked in the oven.

Tip 4: Keep the crisp duck skin in an air-tight bottle in the fridge and it will keep for months. Sprinkle this  duck skin on salads and pasta. I guarantee it will bring your cooking to another level.

Tip 5: Try not to pop these little crisp duck skin nibbles into your mouth because they are VERY ADDICTIVE even on its own.

I’m not sure which is more tasty -  bits of crispy deep-fried pork lard such as bacon or this crispy duck skin but I’m sure you can imagine how a simple salad can come alive with these bits of decadence!

Mix crab salad in a large bowl then assemble on a small dipping plate

Mix crab salad in a large bowl then assemble on a small dipping plate

I have omitted the palm hearts because it can be difficult to find in supermarkets and personally, I found the taste to be a little bland. I believe the palm hearts were more for a visual and textural effect.

Mix all the ingredients in a large salad bowl and then place some in a small dipping plate to be cupped onto a dinner plate to serve. Garnish with a small dollop of flying fish roe and small basil leaves and drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil if required.

Spanner crab salad with pink grapefruit, flying fish roe and crisp duck skin

Spanner crab salad with pink grapefruit, flying fish roe and crisp duck skin

Tip 6: Ensure the zucchini, dill and crisp duck skin are very finely diced. The pink grapefruit pods should be separated instead of being in clumps.

Tip 7:  Peel the zucchini (optional) to remove the skin and slice it lengthwise into very thin 3mm strips. Then, dice the zucchini as fine as possible into 3mm bits. Raw zucchini is firm and will retain its shape and texture even after it has been mixed in a salad. This step adds finesse to the salad and your guests will be wondering what are these tiny, light yellow bits that add texture to the salad.

Tip 8: Baby radish with its vibrant red and diced into 3mm bits is an excellent alternative to using zucchini in this salad.

No one ingredient such as the small basil leaves or grapefruit should dominate the taste. Rather, the crab meat should be the star of this dish and its sweet taste brought out by the combination of all the ingredients.

The flavours of this salad are subtle and yet they combine well to create a beautiful dish that I am sure I will be doing over and over again.

Spanner crab salad with pink grapefruit, flying fish roe and crisp duck skin

Spanner crab salad with pink grapefruit, flying fish roe and crisp duck skin

This salad is also a good option when entertaining at home because it can be prepared before hand and then served slightly chilled or at room temperature.

The spanner crab salad on the menu at Flying Fish is $32.

Notwithstanding preparation time, the cost of all the ingredients for this recipe is approximately $25 and serves up eight portions as per my presentation.

Below is my recipe in full.

If you want to impress someone with a delicious dish that requires almost no cooking, I would suggest you give this spanner crab salad a go.

Wine suggestion

An aged Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial

An aged Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial

Mysaucepan suggests an aged Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial and its sweet honey, nutty and toasty flavours are excellent with this savoury salad.

This beautiful summery salad will also go well with a chilled citrusy riesling or an aged semillon.

Spanner crab salad with pink grapefruit, flying fish roe and crisp duck skin

Spanner crab salad with pink grapefruit, flying fish roe and crisp duck skin

So dear readers, do you have a favourite salad recipe to share with us?

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20 Responses to Spanner Crab Salad

  1. What an awesome recipe! but then again anything with crab in my book, is awesome by default. Ps really loving the photo of the great messy affair!

  2. I wish finger limes had a longer season. They’re such a special fruit and even better that they are native too!

  3. mac says:

    Oh my, that’s delicious!

  4. Raymund says:

    First time I heard of spanner crab, weird looking creature but I am sure I would love it, I love anything crabs

  5. What a gorgeous looking dish! Your photo’s are beautiful… I love finger limes, luscious green caviar. Your version of the dish looks equally delicious.

  6. I never had this kind of crab but your crab salad looks sooooo good! I became allergic to crab in early 20s but once in a while I cannot refuse and I eat it. Your salad is so worth getting allergic reaction. =P

  7. What a lovely salad. Great photos and presentation skills! Definitely restaurant-esque!

  8. Barb Bamber says:

    Wow.. I’m new to your blog and I’m in heaven! The photography, the food flavors, the presentation, everything is just incredible. I look forward to see more posts! xx Smidge

  9. They look beautiful to me (but then again, I’m strange) and this whole dish looks to die-for. I’m salivating over here!! LOVE seafood (especially crab)!

  10. Juliana says:

    Wow, the crab salad look awesome, I love crab, but too lazy to extract them…therefore just go for the king crab legs…which are not so tasty as this ones…
    Love the pictures…always so elegant.
    Enjoy your week :)

  11. Gasp! What a divine salad! I think there is nothing better than freshly picked crab. The flavours you have used are stunning and the crispy duck skin is inspired. Kudos on the bubbly pairing – I can’t think of anything better right now.

  12. msihua says:

    Loooks so elegant and superb! So much work to get crab meat out! You can go one step higher and use lobster!

  13. Wow – you have so many of my favourite flavours here! This looks absolutely incredible and I can just imagine how good this would taste. Lovely recipe!

  14. Dear Chopinand, wow! When I come to your place for dinner, would you please make this for me? Beeeeeautiful photographs too.

  15. That last photo has me swooning and I want to run to the store and buy a duck.

  16. Awesome, love your style. Brilliant step by step photos and directions and wonderful looking end result. Looks like you gave Flying Fish a real run for its money!

  17. Yum! Nothing beats a fresh seafood salad :) Look at the glorious roe!

  18. Row says:

    Gorgeous salad! Though I’ve never undressed a beautiful woman (*blush*), I must say that picking crab meat from the shell is one of my favourite experiences, because my patience results in the utmost pleasure for my mouth. :)

  19. Padaek says:

    Simply stunning! Seriously, who needs to go out when you can have this at home?

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