Earlier this week I reviewed Bo Innovation. In the normal course of things Jen would use our meal for inspiration and riff off one of the dishes to come up with something new. But our meal at Bo was so flat that Jen didn’t particularly feel inspired to cook anything. However, and luckily for you dear readers, this has given me the chance to stride forth with something I have been keeping secret till now – the fact that I am the real force in the kitchen.
The dish which I was most excited to try at Bo Innovation was a Shanghainese hairy crab soufflé (picture above). Unfortunately when it came out to our tables it wasn’t aerated crab but lead crab. Overwhelmingly thick and with a texture like heavy set mousse. My guess is that they could pre-prepare such a dish but not a proper soufflé. Still the rich and powerful notes of hairy crab made it an experience. So… I thought, if Jen isn’t capable this week it just means it is my time to shine and this will be my inspiration.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Shanghainese hairy crab, it is the crustacean equivalent of having a private number plate. It is triple bling, quadruple rich and quintuple expensive. It is also rather delicious and only available a couple of months in the later part of the year.
I nervously bought my first ever live crab at CitySuper (the ultra Waitrose or Dean & Deluca of Hong Kong supermarkets). In order to check you are getting a good crab you have to nudge their skulls to see if their eyes move. I picked a medium sized male crab which, as it is after the 10th month of the year, is apparently a better choice than a female crab. Male Shanghainese hairy crabs (despite being male) also have roe (this surprised me a lot as well and confirmed I have a rather limited understanding of crab biology).
I then strode home with my rather natty “I just bought an expensive hairy crab bag” from CitySuper and made a beginner’s mistake. The crab looked rather cramped tied up so I filled up the sink with a bit of water, cut him loose, and named him “Terry“.
Terry soon took over the sink and made himself quite at home. When Jen got back home she seriously contemplating keeping him as a pet. Instead I gave her the task of sticking him in a pot of boiling steaming water. So to my hairy crab soufflé recipe.
Terry the hairy crab soufflé (serves 3 to 4)
For the white sauce
- 1 tbsp flour
- 30g butter
- ½pt milk (warmed)
- 30g parmesan cheese (finely grated)
- 4 large egg yolks (beaten)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Terry the crab (dressed)
I won’t go into too much detail on how to make a white sauce as there are better guides out there. However, start with the flour and butter on a light heat and gradually add the warm milk, whisking all the time. When the milk has all been whisked in and you have a smooth sauce let it cook for 10 minutes before adding in the parmesan and egg yolks.
Then comes the magic or a dressed Shanghainese hairy crab called Terry.
To cook Terry, you simply need to steam him for 15 to 20 minutes. Normally I would do this in a dedicated steamer. However, due to my beginner’s mistake in having cut him free I had to force him into a big Le Creuset pot with a bit of water at the bottom whilst dodging his claws. It works, but it isn’t pretty. Also remember to remove your crab’s plastic tag showing that they are from an authentic mud lake in China.
Once cooked, crack Terry open and scrape out all the roe and crab meat before stirring the dressed meat into the white sauce. Put to one side.
For the air
- 5 large egg whites (whisked)
For some strange reason I’ve made a few soufflés in my time. Soufflé cooking is meant to be a dish for good cooks only (I’m not one) but I have to admit I’ve never found it too hard as long as you stick to a couple of simple principles. First, make sure there is no yolk, not even a trace in your whites. Put your whites in a big, very clean, oil or emulsion free and dry bowl. Second, switch on magimix handwhisk. That’s it.
Once you have stiff peaked whites fold those into the white sauce gently before putting the mixture into small ramekins. Then put in an oven pre-heated to 200degrees.
I have to admit Terry’s sacrifice did not result in the perfect soufflé as the oven ran a bit hotter than expected (which I didn’t know as this is my first time cooking in Hong Kong). It meant that they rose a bit too fast and the centre was a touch underdone. Still not bad for a rusty chef.