We still have time to partake in two of my favorite events before they are gone for another year - Chinese New Year celebrations and Oregon's Dungeness crab harvest will both end soon.
Organizers at the Portland Classical Chinese Garden have presented traditional music and art workshops, massage, healing and martial arts demonstrations, lessons on the Tao of Tea, calligraphy and brush painting over the past two weeks. New Year's events focus on honoring one's ancestors and family unity through family feasts. Throughout the 15 days, firecrackers, colorful costumes and dances as well as the retelling of Chinese mythological stories were all part of the festivities.
The New Year's celebration will close on Sunday with the Lion Dance and Lantern Processional at 5 p.m. You can make your own lantern to carry in the spirited serpentine if you stop in at the CCBA Hall, 315 N.W. Davis St. at 2:30 p.m. For a complete lineup of the activities, please see the Web site at www.portlandchine
Such a dramatic event calls for an equally dramatic dinner. How about the local delicacy Dungeness crab?
The state of Oregon is the world's top producer of Dungeness crab, contributing over $150 million to the economy of coastal community's this past season. It ranks 14th on Oregon's list of top agricultural and fisheries commodities.
Oregon's Dungeness crab industry has been singled out by major environmental groups and the seafood industry in general as a well-managed, sustainable fishery. Assessment is underway for certification by the Marine Stewardship Council, an independent non-profit organization that promotes responsible fishing practices. If successful, Oregon's Dungeness crab fishery will become the first crab fishery in North American to achieve the designation.
Yes, those are important facts and figures but the bottom line is that Oregon Dungeness crab is just a great taste treat!
According to the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission Web site the peak of the Dungeness crab harvest runs December through April, and fresh whole cooked crab should be readily available throughout our area during those months.
Crab is a delicious party-in-a-shell. Once you know how, it is easy to crack crab so invite your friends to help with the cracking. Generally one crab will feed two people (1/4 pound each), as a two pound crab will yield about a half pound of picked meat.
Refrigerate your whole cooked crab until ready to eat. If your fishmonger did not remove the back shell, you will need to remove it in this manner: Hold the base of the crab with one hand, place thumb under the shells at mid point and pull off the shell. The leaf-like gills are now exposed. Gently scrape them away with thumb or your spoon edge. Wash away the viscera under a heavy stream of cold water.
Twist off each leg (including the two large legs with claws) where they join the body. Break off small pincer and discard. Use your fingers and a self-assured manner.
Break large claws in two at the first joint, and crack with a nut cracker (or whack with a small hammer).
Crack the next two joints of largest legs with a nut cracker or mallet and remove the succulent meat.
Continue cracking the rest of the legs - don't miss a single piece of the meat!
Grasp the main body of the crab with two hands and firmly snap in two. Place each section on a cutting board and strike with a mallet to break the small bones and loosen the meat. Or simply use your fingers, forks or picks to remove the crab.
If you are not eating the crab immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve with lemon wed-ges, cocktail sauce and/or drawn butter, a green salad and crusty sourdough bread - you'll be hard pressed to find better food anywhere.
But if you want to tie your crab harvest feast and your Chinese New Year experience together, use this recipe for Crab Rangoon, often found on dim sum tables. The recipe calls for only a half pound of crab; buy two crabs so you have enough to just eat crab cocktails and to use in the Crab Rangoon.
Bon Appetit! Eat Locally!
Serves 6 to 8 as part of
a dim sum feast
This recipe is from Shirley Fong-Torres, who learned the recipe from her father who was the original chef at Trader Vic's restaurant. Her company Wok Wiz Walking Tours and Cooking Center runs a very popular series of culinary and historial walking tours in San Francisco throughout the year.
1/2 pound of cooked crab, lightly flaked
1 teaspoon green onion, finely minced
1/4 pound cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1 pound won ton wrappers
1 beaten egg or 2 egg whites
3 cups vegetable oil
Combine crab meat, green onion, cream cheese, Worchestershire sauce and garlic.
Place 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture in the center of a won ton wrapper; fold opposite corner over filling to form a triangle. Lightly brush the center with the beaten egg.
Bring the other opposite corners together and press gently, so filling is securely encased.
Place oil in wok and heat to 375° F for deep frying.
Deep fry one rangoon and adjust heat downwards as necessary. Fry rest of rangoons until delicately brown, less than two minutes. Serve hot.
You can dip rangoons in sweet hot chili sauce or Chinese hot mustard, if desired.
Adapted from Shirley Fong-Torres Wok Wiz Walking Tours and Cooking Center
Randall welcomes your questions and food research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at [email protected]