People always ask me, in everything that I have eaten, in all the places I have dined – what is my favorite bite? My favorite food memory?
As it turns out, most of my food moments were made with an ex, THE EX, the big, big breakup ex.
It makes sense. We met in culinary school, we loved to eat together, to cook together, and most of all, we loved pretending we had more money than we actually had and checking fine dining spots off our New York bucket list.
So one year for his birthday, we dressed in our finest and tried not to stand out too much at the über fancy restaurant where he was an intern – Café Boulud.
They nestled us into a little corner table, dim lights, warm and cozy, then bombarded us with delicious, amazing, incredible food.
He commented on everything we ate. “This is a bitch to make, but so tasty.” “I had to make about a hundred of these for a buy-out last week.” “I hate prepping this dish, but isn’t it pretty?” Most of my comments were, “Oh my God.” “This is delicious.” “I could eat seven zillion more of those.” “Ow der eww mek dis?” – That’s me talking with my mouth full.
I can still see those dark eyes peering at me across a flickering candle, threatening to swallow me whole if I looked too long. His great goofy smile with the severe under-bite appearing between careful, pensive mouthfuls. It felt nice when he took me back to the kitchen and showed me off to his co-workers. I swooned when he told me I looked beautiful and there was no one he’d rather spend a birthday with. And I may have (okay definitely) teared up when my man (now very ex-man), usually short with affectionate words, told me he loved me.
On the ride home, we spread out like stuffed slugs in the back of the cab. I laid on his chest with my head tucked up under his chin and he asked me what my favorite dish of the night was. Was it the handmade pasta? The perfectly crisp chicken? Or the crazy good desserts?
For me, it was one bite. Just one little amuse-bouche that impressed me the most. A small little housemade cracker with apple gelée and crab salad.
“You liked THAT best?” he groaned.
After we broke up – I tried desperately to push this memory from my mind but struggled to do so. Not only were his words of devotion and warmth stuck to my soul, so were the tastes and sensations of that feisty little crab snack.
I worried if I tasted the dish post breakup, it wouldn’t impress. I asked myself, if I take away the boy, the fancy restaurant, the lights of our city, would the dish still be as memorable? As special? Would it still be as perfect? Would it still be my favorite bite?
There was only one way to be sure – I remade it. And as it turns out, though my taste in men has greatly improved, I’m still obsessed with this crab cracker.
But I guess that’s how it works. Like Sirius Black said, “The crab salads that love us, never really leave us.” Isn’t that the line??
So here’s to love, lost or found, with people or crustacean and an elegant hors d’oeuvre to impress you guests or fill your face with.
Pulverize cheese, butter, egg, mustard, salt and old bay. Once smooth, add flour and pulse until all the flour is incorporated and the mixture forms a dough.
With floured hands, shape that dough into a log that is about an inch or an inch and a half in thickness. Wrap in plastic, place in the fridge to chill for 4 hours.
Once firm, thinly slice (1/4 inch) and place on cookie tray.
Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly golden.
Apple gelée is just fancy-talk for apple jello. Chunk up apples, halve the lime, acquire a pinch of vitamin C. Blitz in a food processor.
Place that mush in some cheesecloth.
Squeeze the piss out of it. Just when you think you’ve squeezed it all out – squeeze a bit more.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of gelatin over 2 tablespoons of water. Let bloom for 5 – 10 minutes. Place 1/4 cup of apple juice in a small sauce pan over low-medium heat. Cook until hot but not boiling. Add gelatin and whisk to dissolve. Mix the gelatin mixture back into the reserved juice.
Place into a plastic wrap-lined glass dish. Transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours or until firm.
Make crab salad. Toss crab, small diced celery, oil, lemon, salt and pepper in a bowl. Taste seasoning and add more salt and pepper even lemon, if needed.
Assemble! Top crackers with jello, top jello with crab, top crab with dil.
How fancy of me!
The perfect bite from a long ago perfect night.
Crab Salad with Apple Gelée
Cheddar Old Bay Crackers:
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces of sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon of yellow mustard
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of old bay seasoning
1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
2 granny smith apples
a pinch of vitamin C powder
1 squeeze of lime
1 teaspoon of gelatin, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
8 ounces of cooked crab meat
juice of half a lemon
drizzle of olive oil
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
dill for garnish
First make the crackers.
Place the butter, cheddar, egg, old bay, salt, and mustard into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
Add the flour. Pulse until the dough comes together.
Place the dough on a long sheet of plastic wrap and form into a log that is about an inch wide. Wrap tightly and transfer to the fridge to chill for four hours until firm.
Once the dough is firm, you are ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a cookie tray with parchment paper.
Cut log in 1/4 inch slices. Lay slices on tray with an inch of space between each and place into preheated oven. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.
Let cool completely and set aside.
Next make the Apple Gelée.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend apple chunks, vitamin C powder, and lime juice.
Strain juice through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. You should get a cup of juice.
Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let set for five minutes until spongey.
Place 1/4 a cup of juice into a small sauce pan, heat over low-medium heat until hot but not boiling.
Whisk the gelatin into the hot juice until dissolved.
Add the hot juice back into the remaining 3/4 a cup of juice. Pour the mixture into a small glass dish that has been lined with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge to let set for 2 hours or until firm.
Once the gelée is firm and the crackers cool, make the crab salad.
Toss crab, lemon juice, olive oil, celery, salt and pepper together in a bowl.
Now assemble the bites.
Top each cracker with 1 – 2 teaspoons of gelée, a mound of crab and finish with some dill.
I make the crackers and gelée a day ahead. The next day, I toss the crab salad right before assembling and serving.
Also, the cracker recipe makes a load of crackers. I just slice off as much as I need (for this recipe about 25 – 30) and save the rest of the unsliced dough in the freezer. It’s good for about a month. When you want some crackers, just take it out and let it warm up a bit so it is easier to slice and bake.