Clayton’s working tonight, so it’s all Lolita time. Although he’s a great consumer – as in he eats what I make without (much) complaining – there are dishes I prepare for myself that I don’t seem to ever make for him. I don’t know why; there’s no real reason or rhyme, frankly – it’s just the way it is. Tonight’s meal began with the leftovers from some huge-ass king crab legs we enjoyed for last night’s dinner, and a couple of odds and ends I picked up today at Trader Joe’s. The result? An elegant but simple salad of nutty avocado and tender sweet crab meat, accompanied by an easy antipasti: a light but rich supper as delicious as it is beautiful.
King Crab and Avocado Tian with Antipasto
1 ripe avocado
1/3 lb fresh picked cooked crab meat
juice from 1 lemon
1 tbs mayonnaise
1 handful maché (lamb’s lettuce)
1 boll burrata cheese
2 slices prosciutto di parma, split and rolled into 4 tiny cigars
EVOO, sea salt, cracked black pepper, balsamic vinegar
Whole Foods had a special on King crab legs this weekend – something I’ve had a hankering for for a while now. We bought 2 pounds, not realizing just how much meat these bad boys were going to yield. I think we’ve established that we’ve never actually had King crab legs prior to these — likely only snow crab clusters — since neither of us can remember ever seeing such huge unbroken chunks of leg and knuckle meat before. And it was so dense and packed that the discarded shells weighed next to nothing; we easily ‘harvested’ 30 oz of succulent pink deliciousness. After gorging ourselves on not much more than crab and butter, we had about 1/2 lb leftover.
I pull my crab meat into nice sized hunks, and mix it with a little mayo and several teaspoons of lemon juice, along with some salt and pepper. I just want the mayo to bind the crab – not make it gooey; I also just want the lemon juice to cancel out the egginess (eggyiness? eggyness?) of the mayo – not make it lemony; and I just want the salt and pepper to brighten the salad – not overpower it. The idea is crab and nothing but that which is needed to ‘hold it together’ for the sake of shaping the tian.
Speaking of which — here is how I’m shaping this “tian” – my stacked, formed salad of crab meat and avocado. I’m not sure why it’s called a tian — in fact, although I see several examples of this term being used in this context online, traditionally a tian in French cooking is something completely different – either more like a vegetable tart, or an earthenware cooking device. But when I envisioned this dish, it was as a perfectly shaped cylindrical layered salad. And when I order a perfectly shaped cylindrical layered dish in a restaurant, it’s usually called a tian on the menu. Hence my usage of the term. Anyway, using my kitchen shears, I cut the ends off of a beer can to make a perfect form. It would have been better to use a soup can, but all the cans I have in the house are designed to stack, so my can opener won’t work on their bottom sides. (I figured this out only after dumping the contents of several cans of soup.) Using a beer can just meant I had to be careful not to cut my fingers on the sharp edges.
A basic antipasto of rolled prosciutto di parma, burrata cheese, capers, EVOO, and balsamic vinegar, along with some EVOO and lemon juice dressed maché, add extra dimensions to this already sophisticated presentation. Crab and avocado, although not meant to co-exist in nature, seem destined for each other’s company on the plate: the sweet, tender sinews of crab absorb the buttery texture of the stone fruit’s green goodness, creating a harmonious marriage on the palate unrivaled in the realm of simple pleasures. Along with a cold glass of sparkling rosé, this delectable dinner is truly a treat – tonight, for one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it for your sweetie whenever the mood strikes you…