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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Crabe de Neige – The Snow Crab. The snow crab in French cuisine.

Behind the French menu
Bryan G. Newman
The Snow Crab
Photograph courtesy FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department

Crabe de Neige - The Snow Crab, Tanner Crab, Queen Crab and Spider Crab.  The snow crab is a star among the families of long-legged crabs. Snow crabs have a sweet and delicately flavored meat. They are for, historical reasons, considered less interesting than the king crab. The main reason being that that they are smaller and so were considered less valuable. The king crab meat is a little firmer but both are excellent eating.  Enjoy the snow crab when it is not overcooked.
The snow crab and France's homegrown crabs.
Snow crabs are abundant in the Atlantic Ocean and I was told that most of those sold in France come from Greenland, but I have also seen them in supermarkets labeled imported from Canada.  France’s has some excellent local crabs and they may be enjoyed in season; they include the Crabe Tourteau, the edible brown crab;  the Crabe Araignée, the Crabe Bleu, the blue Crab, and the Crabe Mou, the local soft-shelled crabs.

The snow crab legs in France are totally different to 90% of the snow crab legs that appear on your plate in the USA.

The crabe de neige is well prepared in France; rarely will you just see snow crab legs and a cocktail sauce like so many USA offerings.  At its simplest, you may be offered a salad with snow crab meat and a vinaigrette dressing.  If the chef is enterprising you may be offered snow crab meat fried in butter or a recipe that is even more compelling.  Too often in the USA snow crab legs, are over cooked and served when tasteless and without any texture. I have never had that happen to me in France; in fact, I have never seen snow crab legs boiled and just served with a cocktail sauce and nothing else. In any case, French cocktail sauce is very different to that in the USA;  French cocktail sauce has no horse-radish to cover up a tasteless crab leg. French cocktail sauce is fresh mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, tabasco, and cognac.
The snow crab on French menus:

Le Cocktail de Crabes des Neiges en Verrine, Mangue, Pomme Verte, Céleri Rave, Cappuccino de Crustacés A cocktail of snow crab meat interleaved in a glass bowl, this is for your visual appreciation. Here this dish includes slices of mango, green apple, and celeriac all served with a frothy mousse made from crustaceans; that moose would probably be made from shrimps and crab. 

The original Cappuccino coffee got its name from the color of the coffee and the similar color of the Cappuccino monks’ headwear.  However, since then the cappuccino coffee has given its name to anything frothy, without any connection to the color. Hence the menu reading Cappuccino de Crustacés  just means a frothy moose.
A verrine is a glass, a glass dish or glass bowl that allows you to see and enjoy the display of the foods inside.  In France, the attractive presentation of the food you will eat is just a little less important than the taste

A verrine of snow crab.
Des Pinces de Crabe de Neige, Semi Décortiquées, Poêlées Dans du Beurre. Snow crab pincers with the shells partially removed lightly fried in butter.

A serving of snow crab.
Les Ravioles de Crabe de Neige, Consommé de Champignons Sauvages, Râpures de Truffe d'Automne  - Ravioli made with the snow crab meat served in a consommé of wild mushrooms and presented with gratings from the Autumn truffle; this is the Burgundy truffle. With a dish like this ask if the truffle can be grated in front of you and do not be embarrassed to ask for more if the truffle gratings look to few and far between. The Burgundy truffle and the Perigord truffle are the two most expensive among France’s edible truffles. However, too little truffle wastes whatever you pay for the dish as the truffles effect on the dish’s taste will not be noticeable.

Catching Snow Crab

Rosace de Crabe des Neiges Décortique – Shelled crab meat from the snow crab presented in the shape of flower petals or a circle or semi-circle.

Wrap au Saumon Fumé Par nos Soins et Chair de Crabe des Neiges – A wrap of home-smoked salmon served with snow crab meat.

A smoked salmon and snow crab meat wrap

The snow crab in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan - cranc de les neus)  (Dutch - Arctische sneeuwkrab)    (German  - Arktische seespinne schneekrabbe, kurzschwanz-krebs). (Italian - granseola artica), ( Spanish – cangrejo de las nieves),

France's home-grown crabs:
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Bryan G. Newman

Copyright 2010, 2016
For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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