Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shrimp Stuffed with Deviled Crab

This always-popular shellfish dinner is like making crab cakes on shrimp kabobs. You can even make them ahead and bake them when you are ready for dinner. I've made them up to 3 days in advance for a large crowd.

Julian's Shrimp Stuffed Deviled Crab. 
If you’re like us, whenever you are in the Caribbean (or any island or other seaside location) you have a taste for seafood and often that comes in the form of shrimp and crab.  So when I found both at one of our local shops, I decided it was time to make this dish at CalypsoBlu, our Caribbean home.

Sunset at CalypsoBlu
You might think that finding fresh shellfish in the Virgin Islands would be easy.  To the contrary, getting good quality provisions of most any kind can be challenging, especially if you are accustomed to the shopping bonanza that Chicago offers.  St. Thomas has only about 50,000 inhabitants and is a mere 31 square miles.  The island is a tourist mecca because of the lovely weather, and this means little land or labor can be set aside for food production.  Further the warm tropical waters do not a favor large-scale fishing, but rather produce the small colorful tropical fish.  I guess even the fish are outfitted to serve the tourists!  This means that most food stuffs are shipped to the island by boat and knowing when the shipment arrives and who gets the best provisions is key in planning your weekly menu.

Fresh From the Oven
One of the things that is local is the rum.  In fact, Saint Thomas was known for its fine natural harbor, known as "Taphus" for the drinking establishments located nearby. "Tap Hus" translates from the Danish as "rum shop" or "tap house" referring to the drinking establishments.   You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the local rum is less expensive than the Coca Cola you mix it with, making for some very strong sunset cocktails.  While here I make only rum-based drinks such as the piña colada which is a sweet, rum-based cocktail made with rum, cream of coconut, and pineapple juice.  But I digress.

Here in the Virgin Islands, traditional food tends to be spicy and hearty, many of which are imported as noted above so I was looking forward to the local deviled crab.   I’ve enjoyed deviled crab stuffed into shrimp and lobster in local restaurants several times, so I decided to try my hand at creating a variation.  Most of the versions I have had locally have been light on crab and heavy on bread crumbs.  Few seemed to have any vegetables in the stuffing beside garlic. And as I mentioned a couple weeks ago regarding ‘deviled’ eggs, the reason foods are called ‘deviled’ is because they are to be a bit spicy.  Too often the restaurant version of this dish lacked any sort of ‘kick’ and I was sure a bit of Tobasco hot pepper sauce could improve the flavor and ‘kick it up a notch,’ as Emeril would say.

As I often say, use the methods and ingredients below as a guide.  Adjust your recipe to fit your taste.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and use what you have on hand.  The technique here is simple and many combinations will make for a delicious and impressive shellfish dinner.  I did not top the shrimp with cheese or a cream sauce, although this is often done.  I felt they were rich enough on their own and the sauce would hide some of the delicious fresh flavors.  But add these if you are so inclined.

1/2 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 stocks of celery, finely chopped
1 small onion/shallot, finally chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
One egg
2 tablespoons of spicy-brown mustard,(or Dijon)
Tobasco hot pepper sauce, 3-6 dashes
1-2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1/3 cup of crushed Ritz crackers (or bread crumbs)
8 ounces of lump crab meat, drained
20-24 medium shrimp (20 - 25 count/lb)
   peeled, tails on, deveined and thawed
4 tablespoons melted butter
salt, pepper, paprika

Chop the vegetables and sauté in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes over medium-high heat.   Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. While they cool, place the egg in a large bowl and beat. Add the mustard, hot sauce, and seasoning. Stir in the cooled cooked vegetables.  Gently fold in the lump crab meat.  Place two tablespoons of the melted butter into your baking dish and coat the bottom evenly.

Ensure that the shrimp are clean (deveined) and that the tails are intact.  Using your paring knife, cut down the back where you removed the sand vein until you are almost all the way through.  Spread the shrimp open and press down into your baking dish so you have a butterflied shrimp with tail curled up and over.  Place all of the shrimp in this manner into your baking dish. 

Using a teaspoon, place one large rounded teaspoon full of deviled crab onto each shrimp.  Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons of melted butter over the shrimp and add any final salt/pepper/paprika you desire.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the shrimp are no longer translucent and an instant read thermometer indicates the shrimp and crab are 160F degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before plating.

Serve 4 stuffed shrimp per person with a vegetable and starch (rice?) side dish.  If using only a vegetable side, increase the portion to 6 shrimp per person.

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