Sunday, November 16, 2008

Whiskey crab soup to the rescue

The dark, wet and cold have officially settled in. They made a rather brazen entrance and promptly unpacked their belongings, very much like an unwanted house guest intending to stay awhile. If it were up to me, we would skip straight to April. Sure, I’d miss Thanksgiving and Christmas, so let’s just keep a week of winter holidays and fast forward to Easter.

There is a small saving grace, though. Soul-warming comfort food. It ranks right up there with bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens; just a few of my favorite things.
In college, one of the best places for a little winter pick-me-up was the Cliff House restaurant in Bellingham. None of us could afford to eat a full meal there (unless parents were visiting), but thankfully their whiskey crab soup was available by the bowl at the bar. I have been looking forward to making it for a few months, but needed to make sure we were far enough into the depths of the dark season to make it truly worthwhile. This week, the local flooding, chilly temperatures and 4:30 p.m. sunsets were all signs that it was definitely time.

I used up the last of our crab from this summer’s cabin adventures and the end result — a tangy, creamy, slight-spicy delight — made me feel as thought I will probably be able to survive another Seattle winter. Probably. If I don’t mildew before the sun comes out.

Side note: I couldn’t find fish boullion and substituted a bottle of clam juice. This requires increasing the salt and other spices quite a bit. I added another Tbsp. each of Old Bay (mostly salt) and cayenne. Adjust to your own taste if you need to substitute for fish boullion, too.

Oh, and do me a favor. Don't make this if you plan on using imitation crab meat. It's an insult to the recipe and you'll be better off just eating a can of Campbell's. I know, I'm a crab snob. My husband turned me into one the first time he took me crabbing. So sue me (or him).

Whiskey Crab Soup
Courtesy The Cliff House, Bellingham, Wash.
8 cups water
1/4 cup fish base (or 4 cubes fish boullion)
3/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup Red Sauce (see below)
2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp. white pepper
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1 1/4 cup lump crab meat
2 cups heavy whipping cream (1 pint)
1 cup milk
1 oz. sherry
1 oz. whiskey

First, make red sauce.

Red sauce ingredients
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups shredded carrots
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. dried basil
1 cup chopped red onions
3 large cans (84 oz. total) diced tomatoes

Red sauce instructions
Cook oil, carrots, garlic and basil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender; 5-10 minutes. Add onions and reduce heat to medium. Cook until very tender; about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 20-30 minutes over high heat, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. Puree and chill.

Note: This makes 4-5 cups of red sauce. Freeze excess in pre-measured Ziplock bags for future batches of soup.

Soup instructions
Bring water and fish base to a boil.

Meanwhile, make a roux with the flour and butter. To make the roux, start by melting the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan until it foams and bubbles. Add the flour all at once, whisking constantly until the two are combined and a smooth consistency has formed. Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes. At this point, the roux will develop a light brown hue and a nutty flavor; this will be used to thicken the soup.

Add roux to boiling stock. Whisk well over high heat until roux is completely incorporated and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes.

Add red sauce and stir well.

Add next 5 ingredients (Old Bay through Tabasco) and stir well.

Add crab and cook 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes, until heated through.


Emily said...

Thanks for making this for us - it was delicious! And we were praising you again yesterday as we ate the leftovers for lunch.

Missy said...

How is it you have made a crab fan out of me? I still don't like looking them in the eye before eating them, but so far I love all your crab creations. The soup was excellent!

jenny said...

sounds yummy! too bad albany is the capital of the worst seafood in the country... it's a good thing Boston is so close.

Anonymous said...

im wondering how long it took you to make this, not to mention how well certain substitutions would work how much have you messed around with this recipe, or do you follow it to a t.

Heather D said...

God bless you for posting this! My husband and I went to WWU and LOVE this soup. I'm going to make it for Christmas this year!