Pairings: Sparkling wine is perfect with Crab Louie
Oh, what a gorgeous and exuberant delight our Wine of the Week, J. Schram 2010 North Coast Blanc de Noirs ($120), is. From the minuscule bubbles that tickle our nerves so deliciously to the wine’s voluptuous body, every sip is special and engaging.
If you pay attention, you’ll notice a sweetness in the wine’s aromas, a quality that might evoke images of your grandmother making Christmas candy or sweet bread. But in taste, the sparkler is perfectly dry, with suggestions of lemon, pomelo and tart apple, qualities that join together to create an indulgent experience that warrants careful pairing.
Should you have a bottle on hand now, you can enjoy it with Christmas breakfast, especially if you’re serving cinnamon coffee cake, a lovely pairing. It makes an excellent aperitif before dinner, too, accompanied by a few salted nuts — Brazil nuts or hazelnuts would be my choice — which resonate with a slight nutlike characteristic in the wine.
The very best match, though, is our local Dungeness crab, and the best way to pair the two is to serve the crab chilled, with a slightly sweet Louis dressing.
The recipe is for just two, because honestly, you don’t want to share this beauty with more people (you can easily double it if you have guests, but you should have two bottles, too).
I recommend starting your meal with either oysters on the half shell with a spritz of lemon or latkes with crème fraiche and caviar (see today’s “Seasonal Pantry”). Then comes the main part of the feast, this simplest and most traditional version of winter’s most indulgent salad. You’ll find versions with other ingredients — tomatoes, roasted beets, hard-cooked eggs, radishes, frilly little lettuces — but these interfere with the point of it all, the succulent crab, its lovely dressing and this phenomenal sparkling wine.
Classic Crab Louis
Makes 2 servings
— Louis Dressing (recipe below)
1 large or 2 small/medium Dungeness crabs
1 head of iceberg lettuce
½ lemon, cut in thick wedges
— Sourdough hearth bread, hot
— Best quality butter, at room temperature
Make the Louis dressing, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
If you have not already picked the meat from the crab, do so now and try to keep the claw meat intact. Put in a bowl, cover and refrigerate. (You can complete both of these steps several hours in advance.)
To finish the salads, remove the dressing and the crab from the refrigerator. Mix the dressing with a whisk a few times, in case any liquid has settled.
Put two dinner plates next to your work area. Set the lettuce on your work surface and remove the thinnest outer leaves (just one layer) and discard. Using your thumbs and forefingers, break apart the lettuce and remove 3 or 4 outer layers. Reserve the inner portion for another use.
Break the lettuce into smaller pieces (not too small — about 2½ inches) and divide between the plates. Divide the crab, setting it next to the lettuce. Spoon dressing onto the crab, garnish with lemon wedges and enjoy right away, with the remaining dressing alongside, along with the bread and butter.
Makes about 1 ¼ cups
¼ cup heavy cream, well chilled
¼ cup commercial cocktail or chili sauce, such as Heinz or Hunt’s
¾ cup mayonnaise, either homemade or Best Foods/Hellman’s brand
4 scallions, white and green parts only, trimmed and cut into thin rounds
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon, plus more to taste
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce or
¼ teaspoon ground chile, such as chipotle powder or piment d’Espelette
Chill a medium ,stainless steel bowl for about 30 minutes.
Pour the cream into the chilled bowl and use a whisk to whip it until it forms soft peaks. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the cocktail or chili sauce and the mayonnaise, followed by the scallions, parsley, lemon juice, salt and Sriracha or ground chile. Do not overmix or you will decrease the volume provided by the whipped cream.
Season generously with black pepper, taste, and correct for salt and acid.
Use right away or cover and refrigerate until ready to use. It will last 2 or 3 days.