Black Pepper Crab

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Dungeness crab is a Bay Area holiday tradition, and for my family, that means every year I make saucy, spicy, and deliciously messy Singaporean chili crab. Crab season should have begun a month ago in the Bay Area, but this year, our Dungeness crab are munching on neurotoxins and are off limits. If I were to be getting my hands on some crab, though, I’d be cooking this black pepper crab. It’s also Singaporean and has become my other go-to crab dish during Bay Area crab season. This one is deep-fried in the shell and it’s also saucy, spicy, and deliciously messy.

Honestly, I have a hard time choosing my favorite between the two. All I know is that both renditions elicit smiles on everyone’s face.

Black pepper crab

Ingredients:

1 Dungeness crab
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
cooking oil for deep-frying
cornstarch for dusting
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices ginger, each quarter sized, minced
2 red jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, minced

1. In a pot of boiling water, parboil crab for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Remove and discard the gills and spongy parts under the shell. Twist off the claws and legs and crack them open with a mallet. Cut body into 4 pieces.

2. In a small bowl, combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sugar.

3. In a wok, heat oil for shallow deep frying to 365 degrees. Dust crab pieces with cornstarch. Deep-fry crab until shells change color and cornstarch crust is slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Lift out crab and drain. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil from wok.

4. Add butter to oil in wok and place over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and chiles. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pepper and oyster sauce mixture; mix well. Add crab and stir to coat. Simmer over low heat until crab is cooked, 6 to 7 minutes. (If crab was already cooked through when deep-fried, then crab needs to simmer for only 4 minutes.)

5. Arrange crab and sauce on a serving platter and garnish with green onion.

Linguine with Squid and Shellfish

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There is a little restaurant in an alleyway in Trastavere, Rome’s bohemian neighborhood near the Tiber River. My sister and I spent a week here a few years ago during a cold, frigid spell in December. The weather meant that the quintessential Roman markets filled with fresh produce were sparse. No tomatoes, no artichokes, no squash blossoms waiting to be turned into something delicious.

But oh, the pasta. December is just as fine a time for pasta as any other, and I had one of my favorite renditions in Trastavere. The name of the restaurant escapes me now, but the pasta hasn’t. Brimming with seafood and flecked with chilis, I’ve recreated this dish at home. This version calls for pickled hot cherry peppers, but if you can get your hands on some oil packed Calabrian chiles, all the better.

Linguine with squid and shellfish

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
salt
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound cleaned small squid, bodies cut into 1/4-inch rings
1 pound linguine pasta
2 pounds clams, scrubbed
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed
1/2 pound bay scallops
4 pickled hot cherry peppers, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. In a larger saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over low heat, stirring, until it just starts to brown, 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the parsley, the crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt and cook until fragrant. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the squid, cover and braise over low heat, stirring, until tender, 30 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain.

3. While the pasta cooks, add the clams, mussels and scallops to the squid. Cover and cook over high heat until the clams and mussels just start to open, 3 minutes. Uncover and cook until the clams and mussels open fully and the broth is slightly reduced, 4 minutes. Add the pasta, pickled peppers, lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 cup of parsley and cook over moderate heat, tossing, until the pasta is hot and coated in a light sauce, 3 minutes. Transfer the pasta to shallow bowls and serve warm.

Seafood and Garlic Chive Lo Mein

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I work near San Francisco’s Chinatown and every day is an uphill (literally and figuratively) battle to resist the delicious noodle dishes beckoning at every corner. My favorite are the bustling Hong Kong-style shops that line Chinatown’s alleyways, serving chewy egg noodles tossed with fresh vegetables and seafood.

This dish is an homage to those restaurants that I adore so much. It’s worth it to seek out garlic chives as they impart a uniquely herbaceous flavor, although a combination of regular chives and minced garlic can be substituted. I use scallops and squid here, but any shellfish will work just fine.

Seafood and garlic chive lo mein

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh thin Chinese egg noodles
3 teaspoons sesame oil
6 squid (about 4 ounces), cleaned
3/4 pound sea scallops, halved
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster-flavored sauce
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 pound yellow garlic chives, cut into 2-inch lengths
4 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Add 2 teaspoons sesame oil and toss to coat.

2. Cut off squid tentacles. Cut squid bodies in half lengthwise with a knife and score the inside diagonally in a cross-hatch pattern. Combine squid tentacles and bodies, scallops, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Stir to coat; let stand for 10 minutes. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster-flavored sauce, and remaining teaspoon sesame oil in another bowl to form sauce.

3. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 20 minutes; drain. Discard stems and thinly slice caps.

4 Place a wok over medium-high heat until hot. Add vegetable oil, swirling to coat sides. Add mushrooms, ginger, garlic chives, and green onions; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add scallops and squid; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add sauce, stirring, until it boils and thickens. Toss in noodles, mix well, remove from heat, and serve.

Spicy Anchovy Banchan

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This side dish is meant to be a banchan, or one of the small dishes served alongside cooked rice in Korean cuisine. I love it so much that sometimes I eat it on its own, too. It’s chewy, salty, fishy, and perfect with a cold drink. Spicy anchovy banchan, or myeolchi-bokkeum, keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator and can be served at room temperature, making it great for a picnic. This version is adapted from the always wonderful maangchi.com.

Anchovy banchan

Ingredients:

1 cup of medium-small dried anchovies
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon gochujang (hot fermented pepper paste)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1. Make the sauce: mix the gochujang, sugar, garlic, and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add anchovies, stirring for 1 minute. Add olive oil and stir-fry for another minute.
3. Push the anchovies to the edge of the pan away from the heat and add the sauce to the cleared spot in the middle of the pan. Simmer until the sauce is shiny, about 30 seconds.
3. Mix the anchovies with the sauce in the pan and then remove from heat. Add sesame oil and sesame seeds and serve.

Crab Rangoon

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I’m not even going to pretend like these have any semblance of authenticity to them. Say “crab rangoon” and all I can think of is a 1980s Chinese take-out menu in Anytown, USA. But crab rangoon are also delicious. Cheesy, seafoody, and deep-fried: what’s not to love?

I serve these with a sweet chili dipping sauce but a soy-vinegar sauce would also do well and cut through these crab puffs’ richness.

Crab Rangoon

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped green onions
8 ounces shelled crab
1 egg
About 40 square wonton wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying
Soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar and chili oil, and sweet chili sauce

1. Whirl cream cheese, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce together in a food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in green onions and crab.

2. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water in a small dish. Lay wonton wrappers flat. Brush with egg wash, covering completely with a thin layer. Spoon a scant 1 tbsp. crab mixture onto center of each wonton. Pull up corners so all four meet in the center, pressing edges together to seal. Set on a rimmed baking sheet.

3. Fill a wide pot with 2 in. oil. Heat over medium heat to 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, fry rangoons, turning as needed, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer rangoons to a plate lined with paper towels. Let cool slightly before serving with dipping sauces.