The main course for our virtual Christmas dinner is currently in the oven and boy, it smells goooooooood in here, along with being all warm and toasty on this cold, dreary day. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let’s talk Salad instead.
For appetizers, this Nobu-inspired crab salad lightens things up with its tart and spicy dressing to tease the palate. After the rich and luscious flavors of the Brandade and Creamed Eggs, I figured we could all do with some raw vegetables and garlicky-spiced notes to avoid premature satiety.
The original salad features a whole lobster that is dunked in a pot of boiling water before being ceremoniously dismembered and savored with a host of mixed salad greens. Since crabs are in season – meaning a ready supply of freshly cooked and picked meat at the Farmers’ Market – I decided to feature them instead of their Vermilion Maine cousins. You could also choose to use a crayfish instead of crab or lobster, or grill up a batch of tail-on shrimp to add an element of smokiness to the flavors on the plate. In any case, this salad and dressing were made for the sweet juicy flesh of crustaceans to tie together the tart, the nutty and the bitter in every bite.
M, our resident sommelier paired this with a sweet Sauvignon Blanc from Domaine Henry Pellé that complemented the crisp, fresh flavors of raw salad and delicately counter-balanced the soft heat from the dressing. But you could just as well savor it with a good German riesling or a Pinot Grigio.
Crab Salad With Spicy Lemon Dressing (adapted from Nobu The Cookbook)
Makes 4 servings as a main course or 6 as an appetizer
Play around with the amount of chili garlic sauce called for below, or the amount of garlic chips for each serving. If you’d like to make your own chili sauce, try whizzing 2 to 3 serrano chilies with 3 garlic cloves in a food processor and add a squeeze of lime to dilute the paste into a sauce.
20 fresh shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ cup vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C. Line a baking dish or tray with foil and arrange the mushrooms on them, cut side down. Brush the tops with some vegetable or olive oil and grill in the oven for 30 minutes.
Heat the vegetable oil in a deep skillet and add the sliced garlic, making sure that each piece is fully submerged in oil. Reduce the heat to low and fry until the garlic starts to turn a light shade of gold. Leave to cook for another 2 minutes, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic chips to paper towels to drain.
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce, either store-bought or home-made, passed through a fine sieve
Sea salt and black pepper
½ cup olive oil
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl, then add the oil in a constant stream as you whisk continuously to blend the ingredients.
5 ounces/ 150 grams mixed salad greens
¾ pounds/ 350 grams crab meat, cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper
Arrange the salad greens and grilled mushrooms on individual serving plates.
Toss the crab meat in a glass or metal bowl with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and place the bowl over a saucepan of water. Turn the heat to medium, stirring occasionally until the crab meat is warmed through and immediately divide among plates.
Pour the dressing over each dish and garnish with garlic chips.