It was on one of those stormy weekends we had back in September. For the first time in months, I wasn’t out the door early with my boat boots on. Even though I was disappointed that I was missing another shot at the coho run in the Sound, I was making lemonade of the situation by relaxing on my couch in my bathrobe, and enjoying my morning coffee from ceramic, rather than my aluminum thermal mug. And of course, I’m listening to Tom & Rob on the radio.
If you’re a sportsman in the Pacific Northwest, then you are probably a listener to The Outdoor Line radio show, and if you’re not, you are missing out on a great source of fishing and hunting information. When I started fishing out here, especially after I invested in getting a boat, I went on a dedicated (and ongoing) campaign to educated myself on local fishing. Listening to The Outdoor Line has been instrumental in helping me improve my catch on, well, everything I’ve been fishing for out here.
So when Rob responded to a text I sent into the show, saying (jokingly) that I should hook them up some food, I thought it was actually a good idea. Not only would I be able to give a little something back for all the free info, but it couldn’t hurt to sow a little good will with two of the most prominent and knowledgeable members of the local angling community.
Still, it took me two months before I actually got off my butt and did anything about it.
I had just finished working out my recipe for Dungeness crab gravy over biscuits (Yeah, you heard me right) and it dawned on me this would a nice dish to offer a couple guys working a early morning radio show.
I showed up near the end of the first hour of the show, and figured I would drop them off the food and maybe shake some hands. I did not expect to be invited inside, let alone to be on the show for a segment, and certainly not to be allowed to stay in studio for the remainder of the show. I’m not the most eloquent chap in the world, but I think I managed to at least not embarrass myself. Like most non-broadcasters, after being in front of a live microphone, if I didn’t totally freeze up and go silent or start uncontrollably screaming out ethnic slurs, I count it as a win.
Take a listen if you are interested.
Alright, enough about me. Let’s talk about my cooking. 😉
Biscuits and sausage gravy might be my favorite savory breakfast meal. When the idea for this seafood version struck me, I knew it was a winning idea. I just needed to do a little testing to get it right.
As with many of my recipes, this one uses cooked and cleaned crabmeat, and will work with both Dungeness or blue crab. You can find my recipe for basic cooked crab here.
Crab has a wonderful flavor, it’s rich with that light sweetness that the best seafood has. However, it’s also a sublime flavor that can easily be overpowered if you are not careful. When I first had the idea for the crab gravy, I knew I had to build a strong foundation of flavor that would support the taste of the crab without steamrollering over it. I wanted a creamy gravy, and dairy fat is great for supporting subtle flavors, so I knew right away a bechamel based sauce would be my first building block. From there, I wanted to add something to boost the seafood taste. Crab stock would be the perfect addition, but not many people have that on hand, not even a kitchen nut like me. I wrote a post some time ago on how to make fish stock, or fumet as it is sometimes called. That would work well for this. I had some stock made from spot prawn heads that I used for mine. If you don’t have any seafood stock on hand, because you’re like, normal, and no one usually does; clam juice can found at most grocery stores, and is a fine option. In the ingredient list, I’ll simply list “seafood broth” and let you choose your own option.
Of course, you could just forgo the stock all together, and add more milk to the sauce. It will still be good. It just won’t have quite the depth of flavor the stock enhanced version will.
Continuing to expand the flavor base, on the vegetable side I went with onions, bell pepper, & italian parsley, all good supporting players that would work with the crab taste, not against it. I tried a version with a ½ clove of minced garlic as well. While good, I thought it moved the taste a bit further away from the breakfast food arena, so I decided to leave it out of the final recipe. Like most of my crab dishes, I let my East coast shirt tail hang out by adding a touch of Old Bay seasoning. Then to bring it all together, added some shredded sharp cheddar gave the sauce a nice salty tang.
At this point, I had a damned tasty crab gravy, but it was just short of being awesome. What I needed was a taste haymaker that would still play nice with the other ingredients. Alright, I know it’s a cliché move, but my gut (and tongue) said to try bacon. This required a gentle hand though, or else I’d end up with a bacon gravy that happened to have lumps of crab in it. My solution was to start off cooking a slice of bacon in the pot, pulling it out when it was crispy and leaving that tasty fat behind. I considered chopping that bacon up and adding it back into the gravy; it was just one slice, after all. I was still worried about the “bacon gravy” phenomenon though, so I chose to compromise and add just half the slice back into the sauce, after I chopped it super fine, almost into bacon dust.
Perfect! There’s just a hint of that smokiness to round out the dish, but crab is still in the leading role.
I’m not even going to go into the making of the biscuits themselves. I could write a 12 page blog post about home made biscuits, and my Southern grandmother would still be chiding me from the Great Beyond that I left many things out. If you have a favorite biscuit recipe, go for it. If you want to try making them for the first time, I suggest Googling Alton Brown’s recipe. Or you could just buy one of those tubes of biscuit dough from the supermarket. They’re nearly as tasty as they are easy… just like my first girlfriend.
Dungeness Crab Gravy over Biscuits
- 1 strip bacon (you’re not using much in quantity, so go for quality)
- 1 Tbs butter
- ¼ onion, finely diced
- ½ red bell pepper, finely diced
- ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbs all purpose flour
- 1 cup seafood broth (see explanation above)
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 8 oz cooked, cleaned crabmeat
- ¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese … I used Beechers Flagship
- 1½ Tbs chopped Italian parsley
Place a small-med sauce pot over medium heat. Add the strip bacon to the pot and cook until crispy on both sides.
Remove the bacon from the pot, add in the butter, onions & peppers. Saute for 5 – 6 minutes until the onions become translucent. Stir in the Old Bay & pepper.
Using a plastic spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. While still stirring, slowly pour in the seafood broth. Make sure to stir out any lumps of flour.
Stir in the milk. Bring to simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.
Very finely chop ½ the strip of bacon, add it to the sauce and eat the other half of the bacon.
Stir in the heavy cream, then add in the crab meat (including any liquid that might be with the crab). Be careful not to break up the lumps of crab meat.
Return the gravy to a simmer, and cook for 3 more minutes. Remember the gentle stirring.
Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the cheese & parsley. Serve over warm biscuits and prepare to receive praise & adulation.