Friday, August 21, 2009

Crab stock!!!

The first time that people peek into my freezer, one of the things that they notice are the bags of crab leg and shrimp shells. My mom has referred to them as "frozen trash," but I keep them for a very important reason. Once a year, I like to make crab stock. While it's not the most glamorous thing to blog about, it is something that I made today. The one thing that makes this batch especially cool is that the shells came from meals that Rick and I had enjoyed over our first year together. It is a part of our relationship, though, since we were the ones who enjoyed the meat that was once in those shells along the way.

With plans of making a tomato basil crab bisque in the future, I knew that the time had come to break out the stockpot, my frozen shells, and various other ingredients and get to work. Crab stock is the perfect substitution for clam juice in any recipe that requires it, and it also should be used when you run across those rogue recipes that calls for chicken stock and seafood is involved.

Rick and I had talked about doing it last night, but we were distracted by the awesome t-bones that we did on the grill last night (along with some delicious mashed potatoes that I almost ruined by accidentally dumping half a bottle of garlic powder in the water while boiling them).

As usual, I used a recipe from The only real changes that I make to it is to use a can of diced tomatoes instead of the real thing. After making it, I like to put the stock in ice trays to make 2 tablespoon servings. It makes it so much easier to use them in future recipes that way. Once they are frozen, I empty the trays and store them in a freezer bag. I used to keep them in larger containers which made thawing and getting the exact amount a pain to say the least. Here's the recipe.

  • 2 pounds picked-over crab shells (cracked or chopped) and /or crab bodies (cut into 1-inch pieces, carapace discarded; see Cook’s Notes), crab tomalley, and, if necessary, shrimp shells or lobster carcasses
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 medium to large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 to 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (tomato "guts" or canned or fresh)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Kosher or sea salt


1. Place the crab bodies, shells, and tomalley (and optional shrimp shells or lobster carcasses) in a 6- to 8-quart stockpot and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, skimming the white foam from the surface of the stock. (Using a ladle and a circular motion, push the foam from the center to the outside of the pot, where it is easy to remove.) Reduce the heat so the stock cooks at a fast, steady simmer.

2. Add the onion, celery, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme, and let the stock simmer and cook down for about 1 hour. The liquid should just cover the crab shells as the stock cooks; if it doesn’t, just add a little water.

3. Season the stock lightly with salt. Taste for a rich flavor; if it seems light, simmer for about 20 minutes longer.

4. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer. If you are not going to be using it within the hour, chill it as quickly as possible. Cover the broth after it has completely cooled and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Cook’s Notes The top shell, called the carapace, of all species of crabs offers little flavor other than that from the greenish brown tomalley you will find tucked in the interior. The head sac attached to the carapace, behind the face of the crab, is inedible and should not be added to stock. So I remove the tomalley to add to the stock for extra flavor and discard the carapace. The body is filled with meat and is excellent added to stock, especially if it is not picked of all its meat. The shells from the legs add good flavor whether they are picked or not.

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