Towers of food, if done tastefully, are still in style.
Even though this dish is stunning, the best part is the fresh taste, especially if you splurge on the crabmeat and buy only the best. OK, so it takes a little prep time, but the presentation is worth it, and you can make these up to 8 hours in advance, if you leave them in the mold. Otherwise the avocado will start to turn brown.
Blue crab is easy to find along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico near Florida, but other lump crabmeat will work in this dish, too, like Dungeness, if you happen to live on the West Coast.
Just promise me you won’t use that canned stuff on the grocery shelf near the canned tuna. Any specialty grocery store or butcher shop will have access to top quality crab, and I’ve even discovered a quality brand of canned pasteurized crab called Phillips. It’s sold through some of the large price warehouse clubs, like Costco.
Chilled Blue Crab Tower with Lemon Crème Fraîche
(recipe from my cookbook, Par Fork! The Golf Resort Cookbook)
For the tower
1/2 pound cooked lump crabmeat
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (6 ounces) yellow tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 (7-ounce) avocado, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup spicy sprouts (like radish)
For the garnish
4 slices sourdough bread, 1/2-inch thick
1 tablespoon butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon Crème Fraîche (recipe follows, make at least 1 day in advance)
Zest of another lemon (zest at the last minute)
4 mint springs
1. Mix crabmeat with olive oil, lemon zest, and chopped mint. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Season the chopped tomato with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the chopped avocado with the lemon juice and gently toss.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Spray the molds with nonstick spray and place on the lined sheet. Layer the ingredients in this order, packing each layer tight with the back of a spoon before adding the next:
2 tablespoons tomato
2 tablespoons crabmeat
2 tablespoons avocado
1 tablespoon sweet onion
2 tablespoons crabmeat
2 tablespoons sprouts
4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. May be made up to 8 hours in advance.
5. Cut the sourdough slices into decorative shapes with a cookie cutter (I used a small star). Brush cut bread with melted butter and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Toast until golden brown. May be prepared 1 day in advance. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
6. To serve, place a crab mold in the center of a plate. Carefully remove the mold, running a thin knife blade along the inside of the mold to loosen, if necessary. Place a dollop of Lemon Crème Fraîche next to the tower, or place in a squeeze bottle and zigzag on the plate. Garnish with toasted sourdough, freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of lemon zest, and a sprig of mint.
*I used empty tomato sauce cans (8-ounce size), both ends removed, washed, and dried for this recipe.
Lemon Crème Fraîche
There’s nothing quite like a homemade crème fraîche, though you could fake it with sour cream thinned with a splash of cream. This makes more than you need for the recipe, but you’ll find other uses for it, including topping baked potatoes.
Makes 1-1/2 cups
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1. Stir cream and buttermilk together in a clean bowl or sanitized jar. Cover bowl or close jar and allow mixture to sit at room temperature until thickened. This could take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, depending upon how warm you kitchen is.
2. After mixture is thickened, zest 3 lemons and finely chop the zest (save the lemons for another use). Stir zest into crème fraîche and refrigerate, covered, until chilled. Store covered in the refrigerator, up to 1 week.