Thursday Night Smackdown: Crabby Patties

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crab ravioli in herb sauce, in various stages of constructions

I should have liked this more than I did. I think I’m due for a truly stellar Smackdown next week, between this and the quail.

crab ravioli in herb sauce, in various stages of constructions

One small consolation: since I was dining alone tonight, I only used a fraction of the wonderfully sweet lump crabmeat I’d bought to fill these ravioli in fresh herbs from Tyler Florence’s Eat This Book, so I have plenty of crab left over to go into a quiche tomorrow night that I have no doubt will be more enjoyable than these ravioli. Not that they were awful. Just…disappointing. Like how your parents felt the first time they called you at college and you were totally hung over. Not angry, disappointed. You know they always thought you’d be different.

But then, we always knew you’d turn into a lush as soon as you got away from them.

Let me back up: For there may be some people saying, “But Michelle! You have long been vociferous in your belief that Tyler is an enormous douche! And now we find out that not only do you have a cookbook of his, but you USE it?” To which I say: yes. I own a Tyler Florence book. Unlike the Paula Deen* book that my sister gave me as a Christmas gift, I assume as a practical joke, I actually purchased the Tyler Florence book with real cash money. And I’ve used it before**, and found it twee but good. I’ve also made one or two recipes of his from the Food Network and enjoyed them.

*Make sure you’re seated when you click on this. Also make sure you’ve not eaten for 4-6 hours prior.

**I apologize for the title of that post. I was new here.

crab ravioli in herb sauce, in various stages of constructions

So he goes into the same camp as Rocco DiSpirito: a pretty douchey guy who can put some good flavors together, although to be fair, they are different varieties of d-bag.

I’m not going to belabor that point, because god knows I’ve already wasted enough precious words on my less-than-warm and fuzzy feelings toward those particular culinary blots. Instead, I’m going to waste words talking about this disappointing ravioli.

On paper, this sounds like it should be a winner, no? Fresh pasta stuffed simply with crab kissed with lemon, salt and pepper, napped – yes, I said napped – in a puree of fresh herbs fortified with anchovy, garlic and a little cream. I mean, it’s not like I chose the recipe thinking, “You know, this will probably suck; let’s see how badly!” I love crab, I love ravioli, I haven’t made fresh pasta in a long time…it all started on such a high.

crab ravioli in herb sauce, in various stages of constructions

I was really looking forward to this. I took a nap when I got home, to make sure I wouldn’t get too tired and cranky while cooking as I am wont to do after a long workday, especially when someone has neglected to leave me the iPod and I have to cook without belting along to my “embarrassing songs that are only to be listened to while completely alone” playlist.

Despite it’s being nearly winter, the herbs I’d picked up were fresh and fragrant; put into the blender with some good olive oil and lemon zest, they made a vibrant puree. Kinda like if you pureed Kermit, but without the screams of the children. It sizzled and spattered invitingly as it hit the hot skillet where the anchovies and garlic were waiting. A touch of heavy cream toned down the dial on the color and turned it into a sauce. I hit it with some salt and left it on a back burner while I dealt with the pasta dough that had been resting patiently.

I should have known at this point that all was not going to go as well as I was hoping; the sauce was a beautiful shade of green, to be sure, but was also separating and looking most unappealingly oily. I kept whisking it to recombine, it kept separating. Eventually, I just let it do whatever the hell it wanted.

Which, shockingly, was to separate. Fucking sauce.

crab ravioli in herb sauce, in various stages of constructions

But that was just a small setback, surely, for there would also be ravioli! Stuffed with crab! Not as good as lobsters stuffed with tacos perhaps, but hopefully a close second.

I thought I’d really get my hands dirty, so I made and kneaded the dough by hand, eschewing the KitchenAid’s beckoning dough hook; I even rolled the pasta out by hand because I don’t own a pasta roller. Which is, by the by, why there are no pictures of the pasta-making process: I was alone tonight, so there was no one to knead while I took camera duty. There’s already enough food debris clogging up my too-nice-for-me camera, I’m quite sure, so I thought I’d give it a rest tonight.

I shaped them by hand and cut each raviolo out with a little fluted cutter, being oh so careful to seal the edges. I slipped them gently into a pot of boiling water, hovering over them like the world’s worst helicopter parent, a term I did NOT invent, lest any filling start to escape.

crab ravioli in herb sauce, in various stages of constructions

After a scant few minutes’ cooking, during which not a single raviolo was lost to the ravages of the rolling boil, I heaped a plate with my little crab-filled love pillows – MINDS OUT OF THE GUTTER, SCUMBAGS – spooned some sauce over and sat down to what I hoped would be a truly delightful meal but that my chef’s heart of hearts told me would not live up to expectations.

crab ravioli in herb sauce, in various stages of constructions

Lesson learned; always trust your gut. Expectations were summarily shattered, like my mother’s dreams for me when I majored in philosophy rather than computer science. Somehow, the sum of this meal’s parts managed to leech all flavor from the whole. The pasta dampened the crab, which couldn’t stand up to the garlic, which was somehow both overpowering AND masked by a wet, floppy mass of flavorless herbs simultaneously. The texture of the pasta wasn’t delicate enough – I’ll stick to my own proportions of egg and flour from now on, thank you very much – and the appealing brightness of the sauce’s hue bore zero relationship to the flavor.

I thought I’d be able to make myself plow through this; it was, after all, fresh jumbo lump crabmeat. But I couldn’t, and slid the mass into the trash after only three ravioli. I’m still unsure how you take such fresh, flavorful, high quality ingredients and turn them into something that forces you to throw away jumbo lump crab. It’s just not right. No sir, not right at all.

Next week’s Smackdown had better be off the god damn motherfucking hook, or some heads are going to roll around here. I’m not sure whose yet, since this is really a one-person operation, but I’ll figure it out.

5 thoughts on “Thursday Night Smackdown: Crabby Patties

  1. Yeah. Crab can be pretty fickle. I made this crab in spoon bread (with bacon) thing that I thought would be amazing. It was boring and gross. The crab lost its…crabness? Whatever makes crab yummy, I managed to cook it away.

    That sauce is a really pretty color, though.

  2. So sorry your dinner sucked, it always seems a good idea to cook with crab but I believe crab is best eaten by itself. The flavor is so delicate that paired with anything else but lemon juice just makes it get lost in the shuffle.

  3. Weird. It does sound like it had a lot of potential to be delicious.
    How disappointing – just like when I called my daughter who is now a freshman in college and she wasn’t just hungover from the night before, she was STILL drunk. Truly disappointing, and so unexpected.

  4. You know, last night i just *happened* to make some sweet potato gnocchi, which amusingly resembled circus peanuts (I’m happy to say flavor/texture won out over aethetics here). I made a bright green arugula puree for them, also with a couple of cloves of garlic, olive oil, salt, a bit of lemon juice…

    I found the thing that made the puree most palatable was not only the cream, but that ever-loving ladle or 2 of starchy pasta water. it managed to help emulsify and thicken it, and keep the stuff from separating. it also toned down the “green” of it just enough to taste the pappery arugula and garlic and bright lemon…

  5. I’m pretty excited about the idea of lobsters stuffed with tacos. Maybe that should be next week’s smackdown. I mean, really. How could that possibly be bad?

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