Crab Pozharsky, Mustard Sauce, Aligot and Asparagus

Posted by Florian in Russian Food, Seafood, tagged with , ,

Following my review of Wine & Crab, here’s a recipe inspired by their crab Pozharsky. Traditional Pozharsky cutlets are breaded ground chicken or veal patties (maybe I should publish my own recipe of this traditional Russian dish soon…). The idea here is the same, but the meat is replaced with crab, which results in something closer to a crab cake. Since king crab fishery in the US typically occurs for a few weeks between October and January, the timing feels just right, though of course, king crab can be found frozen pretty much year round.

There are a few challenges in making a crab cutlet / patty, which will be familiar to anyone used to making crab cakes. The crab meat being a cooked protein and not raw ground meat, it doesn’t stick together at all — and yet, a great crab patty should be almost 100% crab. To solve this problem, you generally mix in an egg that will bind the seafood as it cooks, and coat the patty in breadcrumbs to form a harder shell that will let you handle it with some reasonable ease. 

Throwing an extra curveball, the Berezutskiy brothers, who hold the reins of Wine & Crab, decided to replace the breadcrumbs with little bread squares. Sure, these look cute, but let me tell you, it’s a total pain in the rear to get these squares to stick to the patties in a pleasing pattern and to brown evenly, and they don’t even add the same kind of structure to the cutlets that breadcrumbs would.

Luckily, I’ve got a trick up my sleeve for just this kind of situation, learned during my time working at David Bouley’s long gone Danube restaurant: a mixture of scallops, egg white, and cream, that works as natural seafood protein glue while also tasting delicious. As for those bread squares, the secret is to leave some of them partially attached to each other, which decreases their chances of falling off and makes positioning much simpler.

Russian Food - Crab Pozharsky
A first iteration of the crab Pozharsky: good texture, but the bread squares don’t stick!

With the cutlet now sorted, it’s time to look at the rest of the recipe and its similarities to, and differences from, Wine & Crab’s delivery:

  • I’ve replaced the charred lettuce, which I’m not crazy about, with an asparagus salad. If you remember my review of LavkaLavka, asparagus was grown in Moscow in the 19th century, fell into oblivion during Soviet times, and is now making a comeback in Russia thanks to the locavore movement. It also pairs well with crab, according to L’Essentiel de Chartier.
  • I’m also making aligot instead of potato purée. I know, I’ve already posted a recipe with aligot only a month ago; I must be going through a phase! But this isn’t a random change either, as the aged Gruyère cheese I’m using is another crab pairing recommended in L’Essentiel de Chartier, owing to both ingredients being rich in umami.
  • Finally, since mustard goes great with the asparagus and potatoes, I’m keeping the mustard sauce and using a recipe adapted from Michel Roux’s Sauces

And since this is a recipe inspired by Wine & Crab, I’ll even suggest a wine pairing, once again coming from L’Essentiel de Chartier: a barrel-aged Chardonnay that’s not too oaky.

Russian Food - Crab Pozharsky, Mustard Sauce, Aligot and Asparagus

Crab fabrication
Yields 4 servings

about 750 g frozen king crab legs

  • Let the crab legs thaw in a bowl overnight. Once thawed, do not discard the liquid.
  • Take the crab meat out of the shells, and remove the cartilage. Squeeze the meat between your fingers, collecting the crab liquid and adding to the thawed liquid from the previous step. 
  • Shred the crab meat into small pieces (about 1 cm long). 
  • Reserve both the crab meat (you should have about 280 g) and the crab liquid (you will need 100 g). 
King Crab

Mustard sauce
Yields about 4 servings

10 g butter
30 g white mushrooms, thinly sliced
25 g peeled shallots, minced
1 tiny pinch curry powder
10 g cognac
90 g hard cider
1/2 bay leaf
90 g chicken stock
110 g heavy cream
15 g whole grain mustard
salt
black pepper, ground

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and sweat the mushrooms and shallots for 1 minute. Stir in the curry powder, then add the cognac, cider, and bay leaf. Simmer and reduce by 1/3.
  • Add the chicken stock, simmer for 5 minutes, then add the cream, and  simmer for another 15 minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaf, and pass the sauce through a chinois into a plastic container. Weigh the sauce: you should have about 140 g. If you have more, reduce it in a clean saucepan over medium heat. If you have less, add some chicken stock.
  • Whisk in the mustard, season with salt and black pepper, and reserve.
Russian Food - Crab Pozharsky

Crab cutlets
Yields 4 servings

100 g crab liquid
70 g cleaned scallops
15 g egg white
50 g heavy cream
280 g king crab meat
0.4 g piment d’espelette
salt
about 250 g Pullman bread, crust removed
15 g (about 1) egg yolk
15 g water

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, reduce the crab liquid to 20 g,  and let cool.
  • Place the scallops, egg white, reduced crab liquid, and heavy cream into a blender, and process until smooth, starting on slow speed and increasing the speed progressively (you can also use a food processor).
    The mixture should be very thick but smooth.
  • Chop 1/4 of the crab meat very finely with a knife, and combine in a bowl with the scallop mixture. Add the piment d’espelette, and fold in the remaining crab in several additions. Season with salt only if needed. Keep in the refrigerator.
  • Cut the bread into 1.5 to 2 cm strips, each about 0.5 to 0.75 cm thick. Make incisions in each strip to form squares. You want the squares to stay attached if possible, although some of them will inevitably be cut apart where your incisions are too deep. You should end up with strips of 1 to 5 squares; totaling 20 g per cutlet. 
  • Shape the crab mixture into 4 oval-shaped cutlets, 95-100 g each.
  • Mix the egg yolk and water in a bowl to make an egg wash. Brush each cutlet with some egg wash, and paste the bread strips onto the cutlets diagonally, starting with longer strips. Continue covering with strips arranged in a regular pattern, re-applying egg wash as needed, and pressing lightly to make the bread stick. Wrap each cutlet individually in plastic film, and refrigerate.
Russian Food - Crab Pozharsky

Aligot
Yields 4 servings

280 g peeled Yukon Gold potatoes
1 peeled garlic clove
salt
50 g butter
130 g heavy cream
130 g aged Gruyère, finely grated

  • Place the potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan filled with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
  • Drain the potatoes and garlic in a colander, then purée using a ricer or a food mill fitted with the finest disk. Return to the saucepan, and mix in the butter.
  • Set the saucepan over low heat, add the cream, and stir well. Continue stirring and working the potatoes with a rubber spatula for about 3 minutes, until potato mass feels thickened and sticky.
  • Add the grated cheese in small batches, stirring between each addition. Season with salt if needed. Continue stirring about 3 minutes longer, until the mixture becomes thick, smooth, and elastic (do not worry about overworking the potatoes, since you want to develop that starch). The aligot should form long, stretchy strands when you lift it from the saucepan. Cover and reserve.
Asparagus Salad

Asparagus salad
Yields 4 servings

10 green asparagus
salt
10 g olive oil
4 g chives, finely chopped
black pepper, ground

  • Cut off the asparagus spears. Cook in salted boiling water until tender, then transfer to a bowl of iced water. Let cool.
  • Using a peeler, shave the uncooked asparagus stems lengthwise to collect 50 g asparagus slivers.
  • In a bowl, toss the drained asparagus spears and asparagus slivers with the olive oil and chives. Season with salt and pepper, and reserve.
Asparagus Salad

Assembly
Yields 4 servings

60 g butter
crab cutlets
mustard sauce
aligot
asparagus salad
chives, finely chopped

  • Heat a nonstick pan over low heat. Proceeding in batches if needed, melt the butter, and sauté the cutlets, spooning over some of the melted butter and flipping the cutlets with a spatula until all sides turn just golden brown.
  • Transfer to an oven dish, and bake in a 175 C / 350 F oven for about 10 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 54 C / 130 F. 
  • Reheat the mustard sauce in the microwave.
  • If needed, reheat the aligot in its saucepan over low heat, stirring regularly.
  • In each bowl, place a bed of aligot in the center, surrounded with mustard sauce. Top with a cutlet, and garnish with some asparagus salad, sprinkled with chopped chives. Serve!
Russian Food - Crab Pozharsky, Mustard Sauce, Aligot and Asparagus
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