dungeness crab eggs benedict

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I don’t know what it is about January, but it’s been so fantastic that I don’t really want it to end. There have been some really good times – nights out with the girls, brunch and a lazy Sunday with the boys, a secret concert with the one and only Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, which was mind blowing and totally the icing on the cake for the month.

There were also a couple of outstanding meals. I know we’re well into January, and I should be detoxing and eating sensibly like everyone else right now. But I’ve gotta be honest with you. I’ve been kind of bad. And I’m actually okay with that. Since it’s Dungeness crab season in these parts, I see that as a sort of get out of jail free card. I’ve had crab a least four times this month alone and I couldn’t be more pleased.

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It started with a crab dinner with the homies at the beginning of the month. We ate crab sauteed in olive oil, garlic, and shallots, accompanied by a beet, blood orange, and fennel salad, potatoes with preserved lemon, and crusty garlic bread. It was an incredible meal. We all had to lie down afterwards.

A few days later, my mama steamed eight crabs for Sunday dinner. My mom’s crab is like comfort food for me. There’s nothing complicated about it, but her crab dipping sauce is insanely delicious – garlic oil, ginger, and red wine vinegar. It’s my absolute favorite and no matter what I do, mine never turns out the way hers does.

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Luckily for those of us in the Bay, this is the time of year when you see Dungeness crab on restaurant menus everywhere. Dungeness crab beignets at Brenda’s (amazing, by the way). Dungeness crab rolls (better than a lobster roll, in my opinion). Dungeness crab eggs benedict, which I passed on during brunch one afternoon and much regretted afterwards. I knew what I had to do.

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I hadn’t made hollandaise sauce in years, but I knew I could rely on Julia Child for the perfect recipe. Her hollandaise sauce is divine – simultaneously rich and light, with just the right amount of lemon. I would happily eat this sauce on cardboard. Instead, it was the crowing glory of this Dungeness crab eggs benedict. There’s just something about the runny yolk of a poached egg that makes everything better. Combined with the sweet crab, sauteed spinach, toasty English muffin, and luxurious hollandaise you have yourself a breakfast fit for a king. A little frisee salad goes nicely alongside.

Resume your detox tomorrow.

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dungeness crab eggs benedict 

serves 2

for the hollandaise sauce:

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

makes about 1-1/2 cups sauce

6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided

3 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon cold water

1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus extra to taste 

kosher salt

ground white pepper

Cut 6 ounces of butter into pieces and melt in a small saucepan over low heat. Set aside.

In a medium-weight saucepan, beat the egg yolks for about 1 minute, or until they become thick and sticky.

Add the water, lemon juice, and a large pinch of salt, and beat for half a minute more.

Add 1 tablespoon of cold butter, but do not beat it in. Place the saucepan over very low heat and stir the egg yolks with a whisk until they slowly thicken into a smooth cream. This will take 1 to 2 minutes. If they seem to be thickening too quickly, immediately plunge the bottom of the pan in cold water, beating the yolks to cool them. Then continue beating over heat. The egg yolks have thickened enough when you can begin to see the bottom of the pan between strokes, and the mixture forms a light cream on the wires of the whisk.

Immediately remove from heat and beat in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter, which will cool the egg yolks and stop their cooking.

While beating the egg yolks with a whisk, slowly add the melted butter, a few drops at a time, until the sauce begins to thicken into a very heavy cream. Then add the butter a little more rapidly and continue beating. Omit the milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan.

Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve warm.

To keep the sauce warm before serving, place in a pan of lukewarm water.

for the eggs benedict: 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter 

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach 

kosher salt 

2 english muffins, split in half 

4 large eggs 

a few drops of white vinegar 

8 ounces Dungeness crab meat (about 1 whole crab), at room temperature 

hollandaise sauce 

chives (for garnish) 

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and season with a pinch of salt. Toss until wilted. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange the English muffins on a baking sheet. Bake until toasted, about 5 minutes.

Fill a wide, shallow saucepan with 2 inches of water. Add a few drops of vinegar to the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Crack one egg into a bowl. When the water is simmering, hold the bowl closely over the water and let it fall in. Immediately and gently push the white over the yolk with a spoon. Maintain the water at the barest simmer and proceed with the other eggs in the same manner.

After 3 minutes, remove the first egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate. The white should be set, the yolk still soft to the touch. Remove the rest of the eggs as they are done.

Place 2 muffin halves on each plate. Divide the spinach among the muffins, followed by the crab. Place one egg on each muffin. Top each egg with a generous amount of hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve immediately.

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spaghetti alla chitarra with sea urchin and dungeness crab

At about this time last year, one of my favorite restaurants was serving a pasta dish with Dungeness crab and sea urchin. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to having dinner there, it was no longer on the menu. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

For starters, I pretty much love anything that comes from the sea. But Dungeness crab and sea urchin, otherwise known as uni, are at the top of my list. So when I imagined the two together, it just blew my mind a little bit.

If you have never tasted uni, I must say it is definitely not for everyone. It has a custard-like texture and a sort of buttery, salty flavor. It is commonly served in Japanese restaurants, sashimi style, the only way I had ever had it. Which made the idea of a warm uni dish that much more enticing to me.

I waited an entire year with the hope that this dish would reappear on the menu. But I either missed it again or it just never happened. So I decided that I would have to make it myself. When I spotted a recipe for spaghetti alla chitarra with sea urchin and crab while flipping through the pages of The Young Man and the Sea, I knew the stars were aligning. In the end I used a different recipe, but it was a good place to start. And then I planned a field trip to Tokyo Fish Market, my new favorite store.

This pasta is nothing shy of perfection. The sauce is silky and rich without being overwhelming. And the sweetness of the crab is the perfect compliment to the brininess of the uni, which is fantastic warm. The combination was even more incredible than I had imagined; all of the flavors and textures work beautifully together. I feel like I need to toot my horn a little bit because even my toughest critic fell in love with this dish (it really is that good!). I might be somewhat biased since I love me my seafood, but… toot-toot!

spaghetti alla chitarra with sea urchin and crab

adapted from Wine Enthusiast Magazine

serves 4

1 pound dried chitarra or spaghetti

2 ounces extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

4 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into small dice

2 ounces dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken stock

8 ounces sea urchin (2 trays of cleaned sea urchins)

8 ounces Dungeness crab meat, about 1 whole crab*, or jumbo lump crabmeat

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 lemon, zested and reserved for juice

1 pinch crushed chili flakes

sea salt

chives (for garnish)


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still slightly firm to the bite,  7-9 minutes.

Reserve 4-5 pieces of sea urchin for garnish and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil followed by the garlic. Sweat garlic lightly, then add leeks. Cook on low to medium heat until tender, then add wine.

Add chicken stock immediately after the wine and reduce slightly. Add sea urchin and break it up slightly. Add crab at the very end when sauce is off the heat.

Add cooked pasta to sauce with a touch of the pasta cooking water. Add butter and emulsify slowly into the sauce.

Finish with lemon juice, lemon zest, chili flakes and sea salt.

Divide pasta amongst the bowls. Top each bowl with a piece of sea urchin and sprinkle with chives.

*You can usually buy a whole cooked crab at the market, but it’s less expensive (and often more tasty) to buy a live crab and steam it yourself at home.

To steam your crab:

Fill a large stock pot with 2-3 inches of water, just below where the rack will sit (if you don’t have a steaming rack, you can use a bowl placed upside down at the bottom of the pot). Add 6 ounces of beer to the water (optional) and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, place the crab inside the pot and cover with a lid. Steam for 15 minutes. Remove the crab and let cool until cool enough to handle.

Click here for tips on cracking and cleaning your crab.