Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan King Crab legs.
They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein — one leg has about 25 grams of protein, and a whole host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentally, so a heads-up if you are watching salt), but only a couple of grams of fat. Which gives you a little celebratory wiggle room to add a little lemon butter — mix 1 tablespoon of melted butter with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
But all this goodness does come at a price. Literally, crab legs are pricey. So my strategy is to buy them for a date night with my husband instead of going out to dinner. We can load up Alaskan King Crab legs for less than the cost of one meal at a moderate restaurant.
My favorite way to eat them is simple: steamed and then cracked open and dunked in my lemony butter. The succulent sweet meat will absolutely elevate your macaroni and cheese, tacos, or salads, so feel free to experiment in recipes and swap out fish or shrimp for crab. But, I’m a purist and love that unmistakable flavor of Alaskan crab front and center, not diluted in other ingredients.
But here is the secret I want to tell you about today: after you’ve enjoyed that restaurant-quality meal at home, keep those shells. Because you can get a whole second crab-dish from that one purchase by making crab bisque the next day. (Or, stick shells in a freezer bag and freeze them for a couple of weeks, if you want to space out the crab meals.) Tossing the shells in a hot oven for just a couple of minutes brings out a roasty-crab aroma that will create quick depth of flavor for a speedy homemade stock, even if you don’t have a ton of shells. (Cheat sheet tip: You can also boost the flavor by adding a little bottle clam juice to your stock.)
The stock can then be added to a simple roux, a little sherry and a bit of low-fat evaporated milk for a creamy, satisfying soup that tastes fattier and more expensive than it is.
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes, including 1 hour inactive cooking time
Servings: About 6 servings, 1 cup each
shells from 2 pounds of Alaskan King crab legs
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry sherry
6 cups crab stock
1/2 cup organic 2 percent evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Crab meat, for garnish (optional, if you happen to have leftovers)
Make the stock:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the crab shells on a baking sheet and roast them in the hot oven until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the carrot, celery onion and tarragon until vegetables begin to soften, about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato paste, and garlic, stir and cook until fragrant and tomato paste deepens in color, about two more minutes. Pour the wine and lemon juice into the pan and let it bubble for a minute or two. Add the crab shells, 8 cups of water and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover and let simmer on low for about 1 hour.
Strain out the solids using a fine meshed sieve, and set the stock aside. You should have about six cups. (If not, add enough water, clam juice, or chicken stock to make it six cups.)
Make the soup:
In a soup pot, melt the butter and add the flour, whisking into a thick paste. Allow to cook and bubble for one minute. Add the sherry and whisk as it bubbles and thickens. Slowly add the crab stock, whisking to incorporate the stock into the thickened roux (flour mixture). Bring the soup to a boil and simmer over low heat for 3-5 minutes, until it thickens a little. Stir in the evaporated milk, garnish with crab meat (optional) and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 173 calories; 61 calories from fat; 7 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 16 mg cholesterol; 543 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 7 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.” Online: http://www.melissadarabian.net