Knack South American Cooking: Crab Pie

by Liz Caskey on May 9, 2011

Let´s start this week with a savory, creamy, Chilean-style crab pie baked to perfection.

Blue crabs are abundant year-round on the rocky shores of Chile’s rugged Pacific coast, fed by the chilly Humboldt Current. Purplish blue and about 4 to 6 inches long, their white meat is commonly eaten in a rustic “pie” form with a creamy filling known as pastel de jaiba. Restaurants up and down the coast serve this in clay pots along with a chilled glass of Chardonnay from Chile’s coastal valley, Casablanca.

Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1⁄2 cup onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound fresh crabmeat
1⁄2 tablespoon paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 slices white bread or baguette, without crust y exterior
1⁄2 cup half-and-half
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan

Check with your local fishmonger about the types of crab that are in season to buy the freshest picks. If buying whole crabs to prepare the meat yourself, be sure they have leg movement when purchased. You can also buy pasteurized or fresh shredded crabmeat, preferably back-fin quality.

Crab Pie:
• In a pan, heat oil and butter; fry onion and garlic until onion is transparent.
• Add shredded crabmeat, paprika, and oregano; cook 4 to 5 minutes.
• Soak bread in half-and-half. With an immersion blender, puree till smooth. Incorporate the creamy mixture into the crab sauté; season with salt and black pepper.
• Divide the mixture into 4 individual, greased clay pots or soufflé dishes. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes until top is golden.

Soak the Bread:
• Remove the crusts from the bread to create a smooth, white paste.
• You can use day-old loaf bread.
• If you would like a lighter texture and flavor, use whole milk instead of half-and- half.

Combine and Bake:
• Be sure to pick over the crabmeat very carefully. Small shells can lodge in the meat.
• For a sweeter-tasting pie, substitute 2 shallots for the onion.
• Fold the mixture together with a spatula to thoroughly incorporate it.
• Make this savory main course ahead of time without baking then pop it in the oven.

GREEN light
Recalibrate your oven every few months to guarantee that it is set at the correct temperature. Even a few degrees variation can alter the success of your cooking. See if the temperature is correct by using an internal thermometer, testing to 350ºF. If altered, reread your oven manual to adjust the calibration unit, or contact the manufacturer or a service provider in your area to help you.

RED light
It is recommended that you fully cook all crustaceans before ingesting. Raw crabs are carriers of a worm that can cause potential health problems. Better to simply poach, blanch, or pasteurize the meat so that it can be used in any preparation.

This is an original recipe and photography from Liz Caskey & Francisco Ramírez’s cookbook, Knack South American Cooking. To get your copy, click here.

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