Something about the oppressively hot and humid Florida weather has given me the urge to eat more seafood this summer. Maybe because its lighter fare? Maybe so I can pretend I’m on vacation somewhere tropical? Whatever the case, I had a craving for something pseudo-Mexican in flavors, so somehow, that resulted in quesadillas filled with king crab, a mango and avocado salsa, and some cheddar and monterey jack cheese.
This would have been a really quick meal to prepare if not for the one laborious, slow, somewhat aggravating process of harvesting every last bit of meat from the crab. If you can get help for this step, go for it–make those sharing dinner with you earn their keep! Its not like this step will take you hours, but for how quick the rest of the dinner goes, a little speed boost on this step (or a beer) will make you feel better. Everything else is very quick work: boiling crab, brief sautés, chopping and tossing in a bowl, and folding tortillas in half. If quesadillas ever intimidated you, honestly, give it a try–its really easy and really tasty!
On the note of taste, the dish was delicious. The tortilla was firm and nicely crisped and buttery. The crab had that distinct, oceany, crabby taste that we all know and love, and the salsa brought another interesting dimension to the quesadilla: sweet & honeyed (the mango), creamy & full flavored (the avocado), and just appropriately fruity, acidic, and slightly hot (the lime, cilantro, and habanero). I would definitely make this again. Also, with the mango being such a key part of this dishes flavor, I’m sending it over to Meeta for this month’s Monthly Mingle: Mango Mania.
I served this with a side of sautéed chayote. It was the first time I had chayote, and I’m not so sure if I’d bother buying them again. They’re kind of bland and I’d probably have been happier with some beans and rice. Ah well, live and learn! I’ve included the recipe for the chayotes as well in case you’re interested.
- ~1+ lb king crab clusters (legs, claws,…or even lobster!)
- water (enough to cover crab)
- 1 Mango (I used the smaller, Mexican Honey Mango)
- 1 Haas Avocado
- salt (I used grey salt–thanks, Jaden!)
- black pepper
- dash cumin
- juice of 1 lime
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 shallot
- 1/2 poblano pepper
- 1 habanero
- butter + olive oil
- 3 burrito-sized tortillas
- shredded cheddar and/or monterey jack cheese (to taste–I probably used about 4 oz)
- Sautéed Chayote
- 2 chayotes
- 1/2 shallot
- 1.5 poblanos
- no more than 1/4 cup of white wine
(this serves 2-3 people)
Begin by getting enough water to cover the crabs boiling and throw in a good bit of salt. Once the water is boiling, add the crab for 5-8 minutes, after which, you should remove it and let it drain for a bit. This also will allow it to cool off so you can comfortably handle it.
Once the crab is sufficiently cool, get to work shelling the crab, reserving every last bit of meat in a bowl. A nut cracker and some sort of long, thin, larder/walnut pick/whatever can be useful tools for this process. Do whatever works for you and take care not to cut your hands up too much on account of the spikes all over those damn shells. Set this aside (and once you throw out the crab shells, be sure to take the trash out soonish, or you’ll regret it!).
So now, on to the salsa. Amazingly, this year, some of my peppers are actually doing well! Last year, I was quite successful at growing laughably small peppers. But hey, look at those habaneros. Very respectable, big, bright, orange, sexy peppers.
Prepping for the salsa is quite easy. Peel and pit both the mango and the avocado, mince the shallot and garlic, cut the lime in half, chop up the cilantro, and finely mince the pepper(s) (being fully aware of the hot oils you might now have on your hands, of course–so don’t just go rubbing your face…or anywhere else…or anyone else, for that matter).
Since avocado’s color can turn quickly due to oxidation, it pays to toss it in the lime juice right after you chop it up so that it keeps a fresh look. Add the chopped mango, cilantro, and seasoning to the bowl.
Also, sauté the shallot and pepper in some butter and/or olive oil for about 5 minutes, adding the garlic for another minute, and then adding this to your bowl of mango, avocado, etc. Give it a good tossing and set this aside. Pretty easy, huh?
If you’re serving chayote, you’ll want to probably start this first. Chayote is a bit hard, so to soften them up, you start by quartering them and boiling gently for about 30 minutes.
Once time is up, remove from the water and remove the large, funny looking seeds in the center. Also remove any peel on the outside of the chayote and coarsely chop this up.
In a pan, sauté the finely minced shallot and pepper(s) in butter for about 5 minutes. Then, simply add in the chayote and continue to sauté for another 5-10 minutes, seasoning during the process. Just as they’re beginning to caramelize, deglaze the pan with just enough white wine so that you can scrape things up without leaving the chayote swimming. Remove from heat and cover until you’re ready to serve.
So now, back to the quesadillas. The crab is ready, the salsa is ready, and you’re armed with butter, tortillas, and cheese. Warm up a large pan to medium-high heat and melt a knob of butter. Place one tortilla in and after about 30 seconds, it should begin to poof up in some places. Flip the tortilla over and now get to work. Add some crab meat as well as some of the salsa (figure you’ll use up about a third of each) and spread it out a bit. Throw on some shredded cheese, too, and don’t be stingy!
With your filling added, carefully fold the tortilla in half and press it down. After about 15 seconds, carefully flip it over on its other side. You want to warm the insides, melt the cheese, but not burn the tortilla. You might need to keep flipping, but you shouldn’t have to cook this for very long.
Set each folded and stuffed tortilla aside until you’re ready to serve. Then, simply cut each one in half so that you have crescent shaped quesadillas. Depending on your appetite, figure 2-3 pieces per person should do. Enjoy!