Giant ravioli stuffed with creamy cheese and sweet Dungeness Crab. Happy 2021 from The Lake!
“Jack?” It was Donny on the phone. “Come down to the beach and get some crab! Bring a tote. There’s lots!”
I’d been photographing kinglets in a copse of spruce trees a two-minute walk from my house when I got the call. Crab?! I didn’t waste any time retracing my steps. Back home I went straight to the living room window. Sure enough, there was Donny talking with a man and a woman I didn’t recognize who had nosed an unfamiliar skiff into the lakeshore. On the beach near Donny were three or four large tubs. I set my camera gear aside, grabbed a bright pink plastic tote, slipped my feet into boots and made my way down to the scene.
The skiff and its occupants were with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Apparently, they’d been sampling the Dungeness Crab population in the Chignik estuary and nearby waters and with a good haul of the tasty crustaceans had made the six-mile run up the river to share the bounty. I greeted Donny, introduced myself to the ADFG crew, and surveyed the tubs heaped with crab. There were indeed “lots.”
“Go ahead and fill that tote,” Donny advised. “And make sure you get some big ones.”
They were good-looking crabs. Legal males. Clean, shells filled out, two-pounds on average, still kickin’, sea-scented.
That night, quite literally everyone in the village of Chignik Lake feasted on fresh Dungeness Crab. All 50-something of us.
Barbra and I spent a good bit of that evening steaming Dungies three at a time in our big soup kettle. We picked two that night for dinner, complimented with a bottle of Chard. The rest were frozen for later use. We did this by first freezing the crabs in regular zip-seal plastic bags. Similar to berries and other fragile items, once the crabs are frozen hard they can be vacuum-packed without being crushed. Frozen this way, the crabs are perfect and keep a long time. Which is a good thing; we ended up with a lot of crab.
The ravioli? Once you’ve got the pasta made, there’s really nothing to it.
I combined equal amounts of mozzarella, goat and feta cheeses along with a blend of Italian herbs. To this mixture, I added an equal amount of Dungeness Crab and hand-tossed the ingredients together.
Meanwhile, Barbra rolled out the pasta and cut it into nice, big three-and-a-half inch squares, filled them with the crab and cheese mixture and crimped them closed with a pastry roller. It is important to use a sharp tool for the crimping. It helps to ensure that the ravioli remains sealed.
To avoid crowding these large raviolis, I used two pots, each with a good amount of water. Once the water came to a boil, I added the ravioli. After three minutes, I gently flipped them to ensure even cooking of the pasta and the filling – a total of six minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet on a back burner, I heated extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. When it was hot, I added shallots and garlic sliced as thin as I could manage along with a tablespoon of butter and a couple of healthy pinches of sea salt. This is a wonderfully simple accompaniment for delicately flavored pasta. I finished the dish with a grind of black pepper and a bit of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
By the way, these raviolis freeze well. Simply lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze them solid, and then pack them in plastic bags. Cook them frozen, adding a minute to the overall boiling time.
With a surfeit of tasty Dungies in the freezer, expect more crab recipes in the coming weeks!