Saturday, November 27, 2010

She Crab Soup

I have been in Charleston for a couple of days now, and I've been fortunate enough to dine at a number of great local restaurants, all serving authentic Lowcountry Cuisine. I have noticed all of the menus from these eateries have at least one thing in common: They all offer She Crab Soup. Often it is the soup du jour.

I had no knowledge of this South Carolina favorite, but I just had to try it. First, though, I wanted to learn as much as I could about it. 

I discovered that She Crab Soup is named for the female crab. It is similar to a bisque or chowder and is made with milk or heavy cream, crab and fish stock, Atlantic blue crab meat and (usually) crab eggs and a small amount of dry sherry (added at the table when served). It's common for a recipe of She Crab Soup to include seasonings like mace and onions.

Culinary historian John Martin Taylor credits the Scottish settlers who arrived in the Carolinas in the early 1700s with bringing their famous seafood bisque recipes to the area. 

If you get to Charleston and have a chance to order a bowl of She Crab Soup, do it. You'll be glad you did! Delicious!

Below is one of the recipes for She Crab Soup I found in a cookbook from the region.

Charleston She Crab Soup

2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups half & half  

4 teaspoons finely-grated onion 

3/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest 

1 1/2 pounds flaked blue crab meat
1/4 cup crab roe
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon finely-chopped fresh parsley leaves

In a large, heavy pot over low heat, melt butter; add flour and blend until smooth. Slowly add milk and half & half cream, stirring constantly with a whisk; cook until thickened. Add onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt, white pepper, mace, cayenne pepper and lemon zest. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, add crabmeat and crab roe or crumbled hard-cooked egg yolks; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes (if the soup appears about to boil, remove the pan from the heat for a minute or so, then return). Remove from heat and add sherry, stirring to mix. Let sit for 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

To serve, pour the soup into individual heated soup bowls, dividing the crabmeat and roe equally into each bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

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