Friday, December 24, 2010

Lemony Crab and Spinach Pasta Salad - Erin

This is the famous crab salad that has something of a cult following among my friends in particular. It is a recipe reconstructed from a salad that Lynn Kestle, Julie Mackie and our mom had at a Christmas Open House hosted by Liz Owens. It was made with huge lobster chunks, and our mom was saving a particularly large morsel to savor when Lynn reached over and plucked it from her plate and popped it in her mouth. 

Violence nearly ensued. Suffice it to say that I don’t think she’ll chance that again. 

I got to thinking about the salad and decided that the basic flavors were very much like Tutu’s (aka Grandma) crab and macaroni salad. After a little experimenting I think we’ve got it! I don’t unfortunately have the exact portions worked out, so you just have to use your best judgement and play with it a little.

  • 1 package medium or large pasta shells—they look like sea shells
  • Shelled crab or lobster—a generous amount—maybe 1-2 pounds or more (use King crab legs for larger pieces, easier shelling and a pretty color)
  • Baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • ¾ cup (or so) Best Foods brand light mayonnaise (this amt. is a wild guess)
  • 1 tsp. finely grated onion (just for a little flavor—no chunks)
  • Rind of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and white pepper to taste (black is okay, but I like white’s more subtle, flowery flavor here)

Boil pasta in large pot of salted water until al dente; rinse and drain well.  Shell crab and break gently into bite-sized pieces, not too small.

For dressing, mix together mayo through salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning. I’m actually not at all sure of amounts here, but it should taste astonishingly lemony and a little saltier than you think it should be. I always end up adjusting it before serving as the lemon flavor seems to dissipate a bit.

Mix pasta with enough dressing to coat well—it does absorb some as it sits. Gently mix in crab and spinach, check for seasoning—I usually end up adding more salt, lemon peel and lemon juice.

Do ahead: You may prepare all ingredients a day ahead; mix dressing with pasta and reserve any extra dressing in case you need it. Toss with crab, but mix in spinach only shortly before serving.

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