Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's Almost Dungeness Crab Season - Want The Perfect Wine?

Dungeness season starts on December 1 here in Oregon, so we're not that far off and you'll want the perfect wine for the first crabs of the year. Well . . . here it is, peeps.  Shy Chenin chenin blanc.  It's from my friends Chenin and Sean Carlton who also have Basket Case Wine, the off-dry Stumbling Block Wine and the huge, complex Reversal syrah from southern Oregon.  There's another Shy Chenin wine and it's a really good syrah rose that's best in warm weather but there's no reason you can't light a fire, crank up the heat or just get hot and bothered with your honey and have some over the winter.

I told the story about re-connecting with Chenin way back in my post about Pacific City, and it's a good one, so I encourage you to check the archives and read it. Just rest assured that Chenin, who was named after the chenin blanc vines her parents planted in Temecula in 1968 while her mom was pregnant with her, is anything but shy in real life, and neither is Sean. After all, how shy can they be when the motto for their Basket Case line is "Wine For The Crazy In All Of Us"?  How shy can either of them be when the educational page of their website - where you can find a long and detailed treatise on trichlorianisole (TCA), the compound that causes "cork taint" or a smell of musty cardboard in your wine - is entitled "Screw U"? But, as usual, I digress.

Find yourself some of this wine. It's aromatic, floral and crisp - just the perfect thing for Dungeness crab, hot or cold. They sell it mostly at their tasting room and at farmers' markets around Portland, but it's available in some retail outlets and they have out-of-state distribution, too. Ask around or, if all else fails, drop me a note and I'll get ahold of Chenin and find out where you can get some.  

And while we're on the subject of Dungeness crab, here are some tips I've picked up during my time here in the northwest.  One is, if at all possible, buy it live - or better yet catch it yourself.  While there's generally good turnover in crab you buy cooked, you don't really know how long ago it was cooked before being delivered to your retailer, who can only tell you when it came into the store.  The other advantage of buying them live is that your fishmonger should be willing to take the backs off them (killing them instantly) and clean them for you.  That way you can steam them without the body meat (the sweetest part) getting tainted by the innards.  

Another is not to use those hinged cracker thingies to crack the shells. All you end up with most of the time is pulverized shell in your crab. Get yourself a cheap dinner fork from Goodwill or a restaurant supply store and stick a tine into the little seam where the shell is soft on the legs and claws. Then sort of zip the fork along the leg longitudinally to create an opening. Now you can just open the shell the way you'd open a book and the meat will come right out. The body requires you to pick the cartilage out with your fingers anyway, so roll up your sleeves and go to it.

Lastly, try something kinda different to dip the crab in. Steep a crushed clove of garlic in some melted butter for about half an hour, then stir in a little bit of Sambal Oelek, available at Asian groceries and most regular supermarkets that have branched out beyond Wonder Bread and Velveeta "cheese".  Huy Fong is the brand I'm accustomed to seeing, but I'm sure there's more than one. It's a red chile paste, so be careful when you add it unless you like your food spicy, bearing in mind that too much spice will overpower the delicate crab.  

One more tip: If the crabs don't weigh at least a pound and a half (2 pounds is better) don't buy them.  The meat-to-shell ratio isn't very good.  

So there you have it.  I can't wait for crab season now that I've written this.  

No comments:

Post a Comment