It's the first week of December and already party season is in full swing here in Wine Country. One of the main harbingers of the season in Northern California is the coming of the crabs, sort of like the running of the bulls but pinchier.
Growing up in San Francisco, one thing we always looked forward to each year was the arrival of fresh sweet Dungeness Crab. Visiting Fishermans Wharf at Christmas time, we'd see Santa standing in front of his cauldron ringing a bell for donations. We'd toss a handful of coins in the pot and move a little way down toward another sort of cauldron billowing steam. No Santa here but a guy (usually one of our neighbors) wrapped in a white smock surrounded by a pile of blush pink crabs and that amazing aroma that always reminds me of the scent of apple blossoms, fresh cooked Dungeness crab.
Sometimes my dad and members of our parish's Fathers Club would go and help out at my friend Cindy La Torres dad's place.
Crab season in San Francisco was such a big deal to the Italian community it was hard to imagine Christmas without it. Growing up in my neighborhood, you'd have thought Santa's sleigh came pulled by crabs. So it was pretty shocking when the season arrived this year with no crab for Thanksgiving. The reason for this was twofold. One, there was a breakdown in the price negotiations between the crabbers and the processors. This resulted in a Dungeness Crab Strike. So the boats stayed in port and the crabs stayed out of the pot over the Thanksgiving holiday. Finally, a couple of weeks ago an agreement was reached and the crab started flowing into the local markets. At least around here.
It was after a series of Tweets with sustainable seafood expert Jon Rowley that I started thinking about crab. Jon had asked about the start of the season here in Sonoma and what price crabs were selling for. That started me thinking about crab and the holidays and Indian food. I'd been working on a number of recipes that could be whipped up for holiday entertaining, easy takes on Indian street/finger food. South Indian cuisine features a large number of spicy crab dishes and I'd been wanting to try one or two. What better time to start than the ending of the crab blockade?
We were going to have friends over for a movie night and I wanted to fix something easy and fast. I thought about taking a Goan crab recipe and turning it into a baked samosa filling. A lot of Indian crab recipes call for crab cooked in a wet curry, served in the shell similar to an Italian cioppino. I wanted a dry curry that would not soak through the samosa wrapper. Finally, after studying various ways of cooking crab in a "dry" sauce, I figured a way out of my dampness problem and into a dry Goan Baked Crab Samosa.
Baked Crab Samosas
Here's What You'll Need:
About 2 lbs of cooked crab (this equals about 1/2 pound of crab meat.) I had the fish guy crack the shells for me for easier extraction.
8 dried red chilies
1 cup of dried unsweetened coconut
1 large onion halved and thinly sliced
8 large shallots
1 Tbs of tamarind pulp
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp of turmeric
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 Tbs of oil
A few curry leaves (optional)
1 package of Fillo Factory organic filo dough, defrosted
Here's What To Do:
Grind the red chilies, coconut, cumin seeds, and shallots in a food processor or blender to a fine paste.
Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai.
When the oil is hot, add in the thinly sliced onion
Add in a few (3 or 4 ) curry leaves if you have them.
Cook the onion until it's translucent
Add in the ground spice/shallot paste and stir fry that for a few minutes or until the spices are mellowed.
Add in the tamarind pulp and salt to taste.
Stir things around for a minute or two.
Finally add in the crab.
Stir until the shredded fresh cooked crab is thoroughly mixed in.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Assembling the Samosas:
Melt 1 stick of butter. This is going to be used to brush the phyllo dough and make it crisp up nicely.
It's important to keep the dough protected from the air while you're working with it.
Unroll the phyllo dough and place a sheet of it on whatever surface you're working on.
Cover the dough you're not using with a damp towel.
Brush the sheet of phyllo dough with some melted butte.
Lay a second sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first and brush that with melted butter also.
Slice the phyllo dough the long way into 2 and 1/2 inch strips.
Take a sheet of waxed paper and lay it lightly over the strips you are not working with to keep them moist and pliable.
Take 1 tsp of the crab mixture and place it in the corner of one of the strip s filling the corner.
Now here's the trick! Fold the corner over into a triangle shape. Just like you were folding a flag. You remember that from Scouts right?!
Keep folding just like that right up the strip until you have a puffy little triangle.
Lay the little triangle onto a greased cookie sheet and brush it with a bit of melted butter.
Each sheet should give you about 3 or 4 little triangles, and all together the entire recipe should give you perhaps 30 or 35 samosas!
Pop the samosas into the oven and bake them for about 8 minutes, then flip them over and bake an additional 6 mionutes or so until they are crispy.
I sprayed my cookie sheets, and when I flipped the samosas, I sprayed them with a bit of non stick spray to cut down on all the butter.
Take themout and serve them up.
They go well with a bit of tomato chutney dipping sauce.
It's party time! The crab mixture can be made ahead, but once you're ready to cook and eat the samosas, always remember, hot samosas wait for no man/woman. Bake them and enjoy them right away!
Coming up next, more party food for those holiday feasts where I go to town with an adaptation of my friend Terri's super-best cookies, this time turned gluten free. And I've got a new kitchen tool and one for you too courtesy of the nice people at OXO. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori