Some of my earliest memories are of the rugged, windswept Oregon coast. As a child, my family vacationed there for a week every summer. Cannon Beach, Lincoln Beach, Seaside, Gearhart, Newport Beach, Coos Bay, and Port Orford, are all places I'd visited before my 13th birthday.
My sister and I spent most of our time building driftwood castles. Although we would usually wear a bathing suit under our sweat pants and goosedown parkas, I don't remember running around in nothing but spandex. The Oregon coast- at least in the 1970s- was cold. The air was cold, the sand was cold, and the water was frigid. As cold as it was I never remember being miserable. We played, picnicked, and pretended. Everything childhood should be.
And then, there was the crab.
Not just crab, Dungeness Crab. Much like BBQ or beer, crab is a regional specialty in a country as big as America. East-coasters have their Stone and Blue Crab, but the West coast makes up for it with Dungeness. The name is fun to say, but the meat is sweeter to eat. My parents took us to seaside wharfs, where the crab boats pulled up to the beefy docks, and unload the catch into big holding tanks. We ordered by count; 6 count, 12 count, etc. Once the crabs were boiled, they came to our newspaper-covered picnic table in a crate and were dumped, somewhat unceremoniously, in the center. Our utensils were crackers and pickers. Melted butter was our only condiment. Even to this day, I remember the feel of the chilly wind on those crab docks, the smell of salt air, and the sound of boats squealing against worn tire bumpers nailed to the decking.
One of my final projects in Culinary School was one that required me to conceptualize, design and present a menu for a fictional restaurant. My star entree was a Dungeness Crab Island in a sea of Buerre Blanc. The memories of childhood still with me, vividly tugging my sleeve, asking to be shared.
I got high marks for that project, and I still have it to this day. Never underestimate the power of giving a child experiences. They last a lifetime.
Needless to say, today's recipe speaks to my heart. Not only does it showcase crabmeat, there are leeks involved as well. Leeks are the national vegetable of Wales. So ubiquitous to that cool, western UK country, they're featured on the back of pound coins. They look like enormous scallions, but are mild and tender, which makes them the perfect allium family member to pair up with delicate seafood.
I don't remember where I found this recipe card, or when. The typeface is vintage, so I'm sure it came from an 80s or 90s publication. Lovely and light, there is still a velvety richness that would be perfect served bistro-style ocean-side, mountain-side, park-side, or on your lap. Enjoy!
The Rediscovered Recipe Box #25- Crab-And-Leek Bisque
3 leeks (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup butter or margarine (please don't use margarine)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup Chablis or other dry white wine (I'm only copying here, folks)
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 pound fresh crabmeat, drained and flaked
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Garnish: sliced leeks
Remove roots, tough outer leaves, and green tops from leeks. Split white portion of leeks in half, wash and cut halves into thin slices.
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leeks and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until tender.
Add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add broth and wine; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened (about 4 minutes)
Stir in half-and-half and next 3 ingredients. Garnish, if desired.