Spicy Crab Soup
Rick Bayless, who sets the standard for Mexican cuisine in Chicago, points out the many ways this wonderful seafood soup is evocative of Mexico. The tomatoes and garlic are roasted, adding nuance. Epazote and chilies are used to enhance the flavor. Lime juice is used to add a piquant note. He suggests serving the soup, a crab and tomato broth filled with fresh crabmeat, in an earthenware or other rustic bowl to carry out the homey feeling of the dish.
- Blue Crabs - 8 (about 2-1/2 lbs), live
- Tomato - 3 large, roasted and peeled
- Garlic - 2 cloves, roasted, peeled, and roughly chopped
- Corn Oil - 1 tablespoon
- Epazote - 1 sprig (alt. cilantro or parsley)
- Jalapenos - 1 pepper, smoked and dry, seeded
- Chipotle Chilies - 3 peppers (alt. canned chipotles), stemmed, seeded, and turn into pieces
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Limes - 2
Put a steaming rack in a large pot. Add about 3 inches of water and bring to a boil. Put the live crabs into the pot and cover; cook 5 minutes. The crabs will turn red. Remove the crabs and set aside on a platter until cool enough to shell; save the crab broth. Remove the claws and set aside. Lift the apron on the belly of a crab to gain access to the shell. Tear off the top shell. Remove and discard the gills and sand sac. Split the crab in half along the center of the body. Twist off the legs, crack them open, and remove the meat. Remove the nuggets of meat in the body at the joints of the legs and claws. Collect all the meat in a dish; refrigerate if it will be more than 10 minutes before you add it to the soup. Prepared crabmeat may be substituted, but it will not have the flavor of fresh crab meat.
Puree the tomatoes and garlic in a blender, leaving just a little texture. Put the tomato mixture and oil in a large pan and cook down until the mixture is as thick as ketchup. Strain the crab broth into the tomato mixture and add the epazote leaves, jalapeno, and chipotle peppers. Simmer 10 minutes.
To serve: Stir the crabmeat and claws into the hot soup base and cook 2 minutes. Ladle the soup and crab meat into earthenware or other rustic bowls. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime into each bowl and stir. Put crab claws in each bowl.