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Savannah She-Crab Soup

Serves 6 to 8

12 live female blue crabs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
1 small onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups fish stock (recipe follows)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Pinch of ground mace (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground white pepper
_ cup dry sherry
Juice of one half lemon
2 teaspoons finely minced shallot
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream with 1 tablespoon dry sherry, lightly whipped, for garnish
Cayenne pepper, for garnish

Pour water into a stockpot large enough to easily accommodate the crabs. Fill the pot half-way full with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Add the crabs, cover, and allow to cook for 15 minutes. Remove the crabs from the pot and rinse with cool water to bring down the temperature. When the crabs are cool enough to handle, pick out the meat and orange roe and set aside.

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the onion, and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. It is important to remain with the soup at this point, taking care not to brown the mixture. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the stock and the cream. Add the Worcestershire, Tabasco, and return the pot to medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Add the mace, salt, pepper, sherry, and lemon juice. Simmer for 20 minutes longer and remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the reserved crabmeat and roe. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing the crabmeat in the butter to coat evenly. Add the crabmeat mixture to the soup and reheat until hot.

Ladle into soup bowls and top with the sherried whipped cream and a very light sprinkling of cayenne.


Fish Stock

Makes about 2 quarts

3 and one half to 4 pounds fish head, bones, trimmings
2 onions, peeled and sliced
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled and crushed
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons died thyme leaves
4 sprigs parsley
1 cup dry white wine
10 cups cold water, or as needed

Rinse the fish well in cold water. Place all ingredients in a large pot, making sure the liquid rises about one inch over the top of the bones, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes, skimming off the surface foam frequently. Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Cool completely and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Notes on Fish Stock: White-fleshed fish such as members of the flatfish family – sole, flounder, halibut, as well as snapper and rockfish -- make an excellent fish stock. It is always a good idea to make a large batch of fish stock at a time as it freezes nicely. A friend of mine takes part of her stock, reduces it by half the volume, and then freezes it in ice cube trays. By thinking ahead, she always has a concentrated fish stock ready to go, and it does not take up too much of her freezer space.


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