My adventures recreating Alinea Restaurant’s food at home

KING CRAB, Vinegar, Aromatics, Seaweed

Recipe, pages 262-263.

I love sushi, and this dish is just a ramped-up version of a crab roll. Kinda. It has the basic ingredients: crab, sushi rice, seaweed, seasoning. But pulled apart and re-assembled in a creative new way.

Vinegar Gel
I soaked the gelatin sheets in ice water for about five minutes, until they were soft. Then squeezed out the excess water and reserved to my prep area.

Mise en place:

I combined the water, white vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and brought to a boil to dissolve the solids.

Turned down the heat to a simmer and whisked in the gelatin until it had dissolved. Simmered for a minute. Then whisked in the agar agar.

I used my Cuisinart immersion blender to fully incorporate the agar. Then let it rest while I prepped the crab.

Rousellot silver gelatin sheets
Distilled white vinegar
C&H cane sugar
Diamond Crystal kosher salt
Agar agar

King Crab
I can get fresh frozen king crab legs pretty much anywhere here in San Diego. But I decided to take a trip to 99 Ranch Market, where I’d previously purchased oysters for OYSTER, Ginger, Steelhead Roe, Beer. I like that place. They have a great seafood counter chock full of just about anything you’ll need. (Well, maybe not whelks and razor clams, which I’ll need for ICEFISH, Horseradish, Asparagus, Shellfish.) [Update: They DO have frozen whelks at 99 Ranch.]

I got four large red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) legs, which I’d cut up into eight portions. Make sure you get the long legs (six per crab) with the pointy tips, not the shorter arms (two per crab) with the claws.

When I worked in restaurants, we’d go through cases and cases of frozen Alaskan king crab. They’re not difficult to break down, just tedious if you have a lot to do. NOTE: When you purchase frozen Alaskan king crab legs — nine times out of ten — they are already cooked, then flash frozen, by the processors. So they really don’t need to be cooked again. BUT, when you buy them, if they are not still frozen, beware. A good test: once-frozen crab that’s too old can be a bit bluish, or smell of ammonia.

I cut off the tips and shoulders from each leg. Then cut the leg and merus apart at the “knee” joint.

I made a slice along the length of each leg, and pried apart the shells.

Once you’ve got the shells opened up, you have to try to keep the meat in one piece, and to make sure to pull out any cartilage.

I lined a glass baking dish with plastic wrap, poured a bit of the vinegar gel in to create a bottom layer then chilled until set. Then placed the crab segments in and covered with the reserved vinegar gel.

In retrospect, I used too big of a pan. There was not enough liquid to totally cover the crab. When I trimmed them out, I trimmed too much of the gel away from the crab. This is what the first dinner batch looked like.

Although my dinner guest loved it, and the croquettes served with it, I still wasn’t totally happy with the result.

So the next day, I did it again with a smaller pan. Plenty of gel to cover the crab. And it looked pretty too…

It’s almost like a piece of art, isn’t it? (With apologies to Edward Penfield.)

King crab legs, from 99 Ranch Market
Reserved vinegar gel, from above

Sushi Rice
I don’t have a rice cooker, so I just cooked the short grained sushi rice like I always do. In a pot with some water, sugar, rice vinegar and salt. Easy enough.

Sushi rice
Mizkan rice vinegar
C&ampH cane sugar
Diamond Crystal kosher salt

I bought a couple of packages of fresh seaweed at Mitsuwa. First was mixed tosaka, the second was ogo. I separated what I needed and soaked in water to remove some of the briny-ness. I like seaweed, but not too fishy-tasting, if you know what I mean. Then reserved to my prep area until it was time to toss in the vinaigrette.

Mise en place:

Aka tosaka (red):

Shiro tosaka (white):

Ao tosaka (green):

I prepared the vinaigrette, by mixing together in a small stainless bowl the grapeseed oil, rice vinegar and a little salt to taste. Then tossed in the seaweed to coat. Drained in a small strainer, so they wouldn’t have too much dressing on them. Then reserved to my prep area.

White tosaka seaweed, from Mitsuwa
Red tosaka seaweed, from Mitsuwa
Green tosaka seaweed, from Mitsuwa
La Tourangelle grape seed oil, from Whole Foods
Mizkan rice vinegar, from Mitsuwa
Diamond Crystal kosher salt, to taste

I peeled some fresh ginger root, cut it into a log shape, and halved it lengthwise. Then thinly sliced half-moon shaped pieces, and reserved to my prep area.

Fresh ginger, 2 inches long

To Assemble and Serve
Well the photos in the Alinea Cookbook look fabulous as always. But they expose another possible omission in the recipe. Looks like there’s more garnish atop that darn crab than is listed in the ingredients. My best guess was to add little piles of togarashi to the vinegar block.

About Togarashi

The Japanese spice blend shichimi togarashi (schee-CHEE-mee toh-gah-RAH-shee), or “seven-flavor chili pepper,” is a spicy hot mixture of seven ingredients used as a condiment. Usually made with red chili pepper, sansho pepper, orange peel, sesame seed, poppy seed, hemp seed, and nori.

I had some puffed sesame seeds left over from AYU, Kombu, Fried Spine, Sesame, so I mixed them with some togarashi:

And although seagrapes (Caulerpa lentillifera), a type of green bulbous seaweed also known as umibudo and green caviar, are listed in the recipe, the photo in the Alinea Cookbook does not show anything resembling these:

Let me tell ya, fresh seagrapes are hard to find. So I wimped out and opted for some more seaweed. I used red ogo (Gracillaria Pacifica), from Mitsuwa. You can also get fresh ogo harvested right off our coast, here in San Diego, at Catalina Offshore Products.

It’s pretty. It has a very delicate filligree look to it, and a light flavor.

I trimmed some very small strands of lemongrass, and reserved to my prep area with everything else I’d need.

Mise en place (never mind about the roe, that was used for the croquettes):

I trimmed the vinegar gel into slabs, each with a piece of crab suspended in it. Left a little gel surrounding the crab. Next to that I put a “roll” of sushi rice. I topped the rice with a few pieces of the red, white and green tosaka, which had been tossed with the vinaigrette.

At one end of the vinegar gel, I placed some saffron strands, then topped with the ogo. A little further up, I put a small pile of Hawaiian black lava sea salt, then a piece of ginger, then a pile of togarashi, and finally a few pieces of finely cut lemongrass.

Fresh lemongrass , from Mitsuwa
Saffron threads
Marushokisojiya togarashi, from Nijiya Market
Black lava sea salt
Fresh or pickled seagrapes, or
Ogo nori seaweed, from Mitsuwa

Salter digital scale
Cutting board and kitchen knife
Measuring bowls
Stainless bowl
Medium saucepan
Wire whisk
Sheet pans
Strainer or sieve
Rice cooker
Plastic wrap
Pyrex 9×12 baking dish

BIA 13″ square platter, from Great News!

Yields: Eight servings, with enough leftover crabmeat for Crab Louie salad!

Next, KING CRAB, Vinegar, Aromatics, Seaweed (Alternate Serving)

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