Dungeness Crab Buns
My mom inherited her love of seafood from her father, an avid Lake Erie sailor and fisherman. As a kid, I grew up eating fish for dinner at least twice a week, and always (as “good” Catholics do) each Friday.
Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of many of my mom’s fish dishes, but every so often, particularly on special occasions, she’d bust the food budget and make steamed Alaskan snow crab legs with drawn butter for dinner. To me, as for her, those extravagant yet simple meals were sheer indulgence.
Once I headed off to college, the regular seafood dinners ceased, and it wasn’t until years later, when I moved to Denmark, that I started incorporating fish and shellfish back into my diet.
While living in Copenhagen, my Scandinavian shellfish of choice became crayfish. For a number of years, we owned a summer cottage in Sweden, where crayfish is widely available, and I got hooked. The sweet meat reminded me of the crabmeat I’d eaten as a kid, and I used it in pastas and risotto dishes, salads and sandwiches.
Now that I live in San Francisco, crayfish isn’t a local option anymore, so I’ve reverted back to using crabmeat, specifically Pacific Dungeness crabmeat, in my recipes instead. Just a few weeks ago, I used crabmeat to make a scrumptious twist on a Swedish shellfish salad called Skagenrøre.
The traditional recipe is a creamy medley of assorted cooked shellfish, mayonnaise and fresh dill; sometimes lemon zest, grated horseradish and dijon mustard are added for zing. A mound of the mixture is wonderful atop a crispy green salad, a slice of rye bread, or, in my version, as a filling for toasted hot dog buns.
Instead of stirring all the ingredients together, I prefer to layer them up one by one in the buns, making for a beautiful presentation. I use pickled pink radishes (a staple in my refrigerator) in my recipe, but one can easily substitute fresh horseradish instead.
When I’ve made Skagenrøre previously, I’ve always foregone the assorted shellfish part, and simply used crayfish tails. Substituting Dungeness crabmeat was a no-brainer, especially after the devastating scarcity of it in my kitchen last season.
In March, my mom will be coming to visit me here in San Francisco, and while she’s here, I’m sure we’ll make a lot of meals together. One of them is undoubtedly going to be these crab buns, because even though she’s never tried Skagenrøre, the flavor of sweet crabmeat is one we both adore.
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 11⁄3 cups neutral vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper editor's note: ok to substitute store-bought mayo
For the mayonnaise
- For the Crab buns
- 2 ripe avocados
- 4 homemade or good-quality hot dog buns
- 4 ounces pickled radishes (see recipe)
- 12 ounces Dungeness crabmeat, cooked, shelled and as intact as possible
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
- ½ bunch fennel fronds (or fresh dill)
1. Make the mayonnaise. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the yolk and mustard. Process until the mixture is combined well. Add a few drops of lemon juice and then, with the processor still running, slowly add the oil until completely combined. Add the rest of the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. 2. Halve each avocado and remove the pits. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh out gently and slice each half into ¼”–thick slices. 3. Preheat broiler. Toast buns on both sides until golden brown.
4. Spread approximately 2 tablespoons mayonnaise on each bun. (Leftover mayonnaise will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 4 days.) Cover one side of each bun with avocado slices, one half per bun. 5. Top the avocado with a layer of (drained) pickled radishes. Clutch each bun slightly and place side by side. Distribute the crabmeat equally among the buns. Sprinkle with lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, and garnish with fennel fronds. Serve immediately.
Yields 1 pint
Make these radishes a day in advance of your crab buns, and any remaining can be used in salads or as a condiment for roast meat. They will last for 2 months in the refrigerator.
- 1 lb radishes, stems removed, washed thoroughly
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
1. Slice the radishes into ¼”– thick disks.
2. In a non reactive saucepan, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil.
3. Put the radishes in a clean glass jar and pour the hot liquid over them.
4. Cover and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.
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Dungeness Crab Cakes was published in the Winter 2017 issue of Edible San Francisco Magazine. © 2017 Edible San Francisco. Photo © 2017 Nichole Accettola.