What inspires me? This!...
A dinner with friends, a glass of white Burgundy paired with Crab Gratin, made from scratch from a live crab purchased straight off the boat in Half Moon Bay during crab season. Not grand cru Burgundy - that would be too rich for a crab, but a 1er cru or a regular village Burgundy from a great producer like Domaine Dujac or Domaine Leflaive - this pairing is bliss, which I pass on to you.
In the upper reaches of Burgundy elite, few can touch Dujac. While better known for his Bonnes Mares - a red Burgundy grand cru, the owner/winemaker's Jacques Seysses makes classical, pure, crystalline white wine from the village of Morey-Saint-Denis for which a crustacean is an ideal culinary complement.
Note from the dinner host, and his marvelous recipe:
The dish that I served last year at the dinner was a variation of a recipe by Mark Franz of Farallon. His recipe (Crab Imperial Gratin) uses Crème Fraîche, mine does not.
red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 live dungeness crab (cooked in court bouillon, see note below)
1 - 2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
chopped tarragon, chive or Italian parsley
white or black truffle oil (if you want to be decadent, add fresh truffle shavings)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black or white pepper
Bread Crumb Topping:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
chopped fresh thyme
black pepper corns
1/4 quart Staub Cast Iron "Oval or Round Cocotte" - One per person (shown on the photo)
Fill a medium to large stock pot with water and court bouillon ingredients. Bring to boil. Once boiling, place the live dungeness crab in the pot and boil for five minutes. Turn off heat and let the crab soak in the hot court bouillon for an additional thirty minutes. Remove the crab let cool. Clean the crab and pick all the meat from it legs and body. Set aside.
Cook the diced potatoes in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Cool in an ice bath, drain and set aside. In a sauté pan, melt butter and cook the corn kernels, about 3 minutes. Place in ice bath, drain and mix with the crab meat. Add the potatoes, lemon zest, herbs (either tarragon, chives or Italian parsley), truffle oil, salt and pepper to the corn and crab (mix thoroughly). These steps can all be done well ahead of time (up to one day).
If using fresh truffles, shave them into the crab mixture up to an hour before finishing the dish.
To finish: preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the crab mixture in the mini Staubs. Fill about half way and add some butter (you can even use truffle butter). Finish filling and add a little more butter. Combine the bread crumbs and thyme with a tablespoon of softened butter. Cover the crab mixture in each mini Staub with the bread crumbs. Cook in the over for 10 to 15 minutes until the crab mixture is heated throughout and the bread crumbs golden brown. Serve immediately using caution due to the heat of the mini Staubs.
Live dungeness crab can be obtained in season (late November until about April or May) off the boats at Pillar Point Harbor. Here is a link: http://www.smharbor.com/pillarpoint/. They have a fishfone: 650.726.8724.
I don't know why it took me half a year to post this. Maybe it's because the warm summer days that finally arrived to the Bay Area make me yearn for a glass of cool white Burgundy. Thanks Scott for giving me an evening of inspiration that lasted for 7 months.
For another of Scott's culinary exploits, check out this post on paella.