This was not the recipe I intended to prepare. In addition to learning that peaches are out of season, I found out that the focal point of my planned dish was also unavailable. Soft shell crabs don’t become available until May. I could have ordered the crabs frozen from an internet provider, or perhaps begged an Asian restaurant to sell to me, but that seemed to be going way beyond expectation. I almost purchased King Crab legs to use for this dish, but that seemed like a waste of a great visual item since I didn’t plan to use the shell. Instead, I worked with both jumbo crab meat and (heaven forbid) imitation crab meat.
I work in a pretty cool office that serves lunch to all employees. Every once in a while, the food service team brings in different things for us to try. This week, they had blood oranges, and the minute I saw them, I knew I had to incorporate them into the dish. I used the zest in the mushroom orzo mix and garnished the plate with orange slices. The orzo mushroom dish should have been better than it was. I totally miscalculated how much the mushrooms would reduce in size. I really need to have doubled the amount of ‘shrooms, maybe even tripled it, for the amount of orzo I made. The wife said the orzo was “nothing special” … and she was right. It was bland from lack of the woody, mushroomy taste that I was going for. Interestingly enough, the girl stated that the orzo was too sweet. She asked if there was something else in it other than the mushrooms, and she was able to identify the taste of the zest.
Without the soft shell crabs, I had to come up with something clever for the focal point of the dish. Years ago my brother-in-law introduced us to his family tradition of “Bacon Sunday.” Has anyone who has tried bacon not liked bacon? It was then that the idea of bacon-wrapped crab meat was born. But what to do with them? I channeled my childhood memories of Long John Silver’s, a fast food chain that I rarely see on the east coast anymore, and made a batter to dip them in. I’m not a beer drinker, so I didn’t have any in the house to make a beer batter. We happened to have an open bottle of white wine, so I simply substituted. We also had some champagne from the previous battle. The wife stated it would have been better to have used the bubbly, claiming the effervescence is why beer would be used in the first place. Don’t know if she is right or wrong, but I don’t think it really mattered.
Did it work? Yes, eventually. First, the bites had to cook much longer than I had expected because of the bacon under the batter. Secondly, the batter stuck to the basket that was lowered into the hot oil, which made it nearly impossible to pop the crab bites off the wire mesh. I should have cooked the bacon-wrapped crab in the oil without the batter first. This would get the bacon to crisp much faster. THEN dredge the bites into the wine batter and put back into the oil by lowering them in with a slotted spoon. The basket can sit at the bottom of the oil so it is easier to get the bites out and the batter wouldn’t have fried around the mesh.
Overall, the bacon-wrapped crab bites were a winner. Everyone gave it a thumbs up with a “yummy” from the boy. However, the boy wouldn’t eat either the orzo (had mushrooms) or the puree. When challenged that there weren’t many mushroom in the orzo, he then said it was touching the mango-peach puree. The girl says she doesn’t like mangoes or peaches either, and so she didn’t like the puree. The wife said the puree was tasty but had the consistency similar to porridge and she also claimed that my plating looked like a christmas wreath. I bet she wouldn’t have said that if their was soft shell crab in the middle of the plate!
Wine-Battered Bacon-Wrapped Crab Bites with Mushroom Orzo and Peach-Mango Puree
For blood orange mushroom orzo
- 1 cup orzo, cooked per package instructions
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp minced ginger
- 1 cup mushrooms, chopped (I used portabella and oyster)
- 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 1/4 cup scallions, chopped
- 2 blood oranges, segmented, 1 zested first,
- Canola oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a pan over medium high heat lightly coated with oil, add garlic and ginger and saute. Add mushrooms and saute. Add oyster sauce and saute till mushrooms are cooked down. Add zest. When orzo is finished put in large bowl and mix in mushrooms.
For mango peach puree
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 mango, chopped
- 1 peach, chopped or 1/2 can of sliced peaches
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
Add all ingredients in a mini chopper and puree till smooth. Can be served warm or cold depending on your taste. Heat over low flame to serve warm.
For white-wine-battered bacon-wrapped crab bites
- 1 cup flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 cup white wine
- 4 slices of bacon
- 12 pieces lump crab meat
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until the consistency of pancake batter. Completely wrap crab chunks with a bacon strip cut to surround it once. Dredge in wine batter and drop into hot oil.