Crab feasts are pretty easy to put together. The main attraction is the focus of most attention, so appetizers, side dishes and desserts are barely noticed. Of course, there are certain guests who accompany other guests who are either allergic to crabs or just plain can't stand seafood. So, there needs to be some consideration of their protein sources. And then there are crab eaters who like to take a break from the picking and try out those hot dogs, Italian sausage and hamburgers, the beans and slaw and/or tossed salad, and all those other goodies you got for the non-crabby ones.
Which all leads to the big poser: How many crabs to get. Jumbo, of course. From your favorite provider. We like to allow six of the big guys for each guest, plus a dozen or so extra. Not for them, but for the follow-up picking session the next day or so. That's when I get to really enjoy the ritual without being concerned with how my guests are faring.
These crabs are the stuff of gourmet-dom. Some to eat right now, maybe dunked in some drawn butter, a la lobster. Some to save for favorite recipes, dishes we gorge on for the next few days. In my humble opinion, your own efforts at picking these crabs make them the very best tasting you can get.
Which hard-won crab meat is our topic du jour, wherever you acquire this delightful crustacean.
This is a sinful dish, containing as it does a cup of heavy cream, but you can lighten it with half and half; just use a little less, if you want the potage to be thick.
We also use shrimp in this recipe. Leave the shells on for additional flavor in the base, then shell and devein the shrimp while the stew cooks, and add them later.
Serve with a green salad, some artisanal bread and a favorite rosé.
1 stick unsalted butter, divided
1/2 pound medium shrimp, shells left on
1/3 cup dry sherry
3 cups bottled clam juice
1 1/2 cups water
1 medium onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground pepper