Connemara Crab & Lemon Mayonnaise
Another trip to the West Coast, and another magical meal. This time around, Cliodhna Prendergast treats us to a whole crab served with zesty lemon mayonnaise, and we take a look at the traditional fishing methods that put the meal on the table.
This is the second of Cliodhna’s recipes for Makers & Brothers, and once again it is hard to imagine that such a tasty meal can be coaxed from such simple, local and seasonal ingredients. We are big fans of crab at the best of times, so this spread ticked all the boxes.
One whole crab
A generous amount of sea salt
One onion, peeled and sliced
One bulb of fennel, sliced roughly
One lemon, quartered
For dressing the brown meat:
For the mayonnaise:
2 egg yolks
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp white wine vinegar
½ lemon juiced
salt and pepper
150mls olive oil or sunflower oil or a mix of both
Cooking the crab:
Start with a pot of salted water that will fit the crab comfortably, covering it completely. The water should be as salty as sea water.
Add the onion, fennel, 5 peppercorns, lemon and some parsley and bring to the boil.
Add the crab to the water, wait for the water to come back to the boil and cook at a rolling boil for 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the crab to cool in the water.
Preparing the crab:
Remove the crab from the water, leaving behind the onion, fennel and other stock ingredients.
Pull the claws and legs off the body of the crab.
Turn the crab on its back and you will see two sockets where you have just removed the claws. Put your thumb and middle finger into these sockets and tug firmly, lifting out the core.
Drain away any excess water, remove any bony bits and also the skin-like membrane.
Scoop everything else out into a bowl. It does not look like the most appetising mess but mixed with a teaspoon of chopped dill, a squeeze of lemon and some black pepper it has the most incredible flavour.
Crack the claws with the back of a knife, a rolling pin or a hammer but show restraint — if you smash the shell to pieces you will have to spend your time picking shards of shell out of the crab meat.
Remove the white meat with the help of a lobster pick — the back of a teaspoon is good for removing the meat from the knuckly bits. There is quite a bit of meat in the legs too that is not to be missed.
Now it is time to address the core: remove and discard the “dead man’s fingers” — the grey gills that surround the core — and use a sharp knife to chop straight down the centre. This will reveal nooks and crannies holding delicious deposits of white meat. You can pick this meat out with a lobster pick, and though it takes a bit of patience, it is all part of the ritual. You can get in through the leg sockets too.
When you have divested the crab of all of its white meat, mix it with just a little of the lemon mayonnaise.
Making the mayonnaise:
Place two egg yolks in a bowl and add the mustard, vinegar, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper and mix well.
With a damp cloth under the bowl to prevent it from spinning, pour the oil at a steady trickle while whisking vigorously.
If the oil is poured too fast or is not whisked enough the emulsion will start to split.
If this happens, you can save the mayonnaise by adding some of the lemon juice and whisking. It should come back beautifully.
When all the oil is added, add the lemon juice slowly to taste.
Check the seasoning, it may need a dash more vinegar, mustard or another pinch of salt.
We love a simple approach: mixing the brown and white crab meat together, and serving on toasted brown soda bread.
Recipe and food photography by Cliodhna Prendergast
Makers & Brothers