“Sweet, delicious Dungeness crab is always a treat.” ~ Tom Douglas
My first meal after a day out crabbing is always surf and turf. I immediately head to the supermarket and collect the finest rib eye or New York strip steaks I can find, risotto, crusty bread, a few pounds of butter, and a fine bottle of white wine. It is a grand affair. And I stayed true to form after the first day of crabbing on my San Juan Islands trip
On the second night of our trip, we still had a handful of crabs to prepare, and while surf and turf is great it is also extremely expensive. One can only afford steak so many times before their wallet is full of nothing more than moths. I started thinking about how sweet the Dungeness crab meat is and what would pair well with its flavor and texture. Pasta always comes to my mind when I think about food. I love pasta. Alfredo was also running around in there as well. So, I decided to prepare a Dungeness crab alfredo dinner, and my diners were not disappointed!
Making a thick, creamy, rich Alfredo sauce is not an easy task. Many times, right as you think the sauce is looking beautiful and you are ready to pour it all over your noodles, it will break. The butter and cream will separate and you end up with a greasy, gritty ball of something that looks remotely like a cheesy sauce. I hate when that happens!
Since we were on vacation, and I was away from my stove, I felt that making an alfredo sauce was going to be very difficult. Alfredo sauce is very sensitive to the temperatures you cook it at, and being on a strange stove can make holding the right temperature very difficult. I was nervous, but really wanted alfredo! I was searching the internet for sauce ideas, and when I came across this recipe using cream cheese as a base for the sauce I knew it would be a great alternative to a traditional sauce.
Before starting anything else, prepare the crab meat. If your crabs are still alive, they need to be boiled for 15 minutes in a pot of hot water. I have tips for cleaning the crabs up before meat removal at this link: Cleaning Up Those Dungies! If the crab has already been boiled and is frozen, you can warm it up in the microwave or oven. I personally prefer the microwave. The legs need to be cracked and meat pulled out and don’t forget the meat at the base of the legs where they attach to the body.
For the sauce, in a medium-sized pot melt a stick of butter over medium heat. Add shallots and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. When the butter is melted and the shallots have sweated, add the entire 8oz of cream cheese and start whisking. At first, the cream cheese will break into chunks, and it is SCARY! You will start questioning if this is going to work and want to abandon the pot and start over. Keep stirring! Just keep stirring! And stirring. The cream cheese will continue to melt and start to smooth out, I promise. But you have to keep stirring! And not freak out!
Once the cream cheese is smooth and creamy, slowly add the milk. I said slowly! Keep whisking as you pour the half and half to maintain that creamy texture. The beautiful thing about this recipe is you can substitute the dairy for whatever you have on hand: cream, 1% or 2% milk, or whole milk. If you are using milk, I would suggest the whole milk because it is just adds to the creaminess of the sauce, but when in a pinch anything will work fine.
After incorporating the milk, add the parmesan cheese and garlic powder. Mix until the sauce reaches your desired thickness and then remove it from the heat. If you find that it is getting too thick, add more milk until it thins out.
Like I said in the beginning, this sauce is easy to pull together and tastes amazing. There are two keys to making this sauce a success. First, add everything in the order listed. The order is important for creating a creamy, well developed sauce. Second, just keep stirring!
For the noodles, there is a lot of flexibility. The long, ribbon-like fettuccine noodles are probably the most traditional accompaniment for cream sauces such as alfredo. Other great alternatives would be the classic spaghetti noodles, the thicker linguine noodle, or an angel hair pasta. Cook the noodles to al dente, where they have just a bit of bite left. You know, that moment between chewy and mushy.
Once the sauce and noodles are ready, put the crab, noodles, and sauce into a large bowl and toss, coating everything. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the top, and serve with a crisp glass of chardonnay.