Crab and Cream: A Heavenly Combination

Gluten-Free Pasta with Creamy Crab Parmesan Sauce

“A connoisseur of gastronomy was congratulated on his appointment as a director of indirect contributions at Periguex: and, above all, in the pleasure there would be in living in the midst of good cheer, in the country of truffles, partridges, truffled turkeys, and so forth. “Alas!” replied with a sigh the sad gastronomer, “can one really live at all in a country where there is no fresh sea-fish?”
(Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, 1825)

“Pasta doesn’t make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat.” (Giada De Laurentis, Every Day Italian)

Yes, one really can live in a country where fresh sea fish, and fresh seafood of all types, is unavailable. And here we live, in San Antonio, some 2.5 hours (give or take) from the nearest  coast, and thus from the nearest fresh seafood. When we want to cook seafood, then, we must resort to the previously frozen fish or other seafood we “catch” at HEB, HEB’s Central Market, Whole Foods, Costco, and other such grocery stores. When I decide to serve crab for dinner, I do my crabbing at Costco. I buy the refrigerated, pasteurized crab meat at Costco with a tad bit of sorrow that I developed my ability to appreciate crab later in life, past the times of summer crab boils with crab freshly caught from the sea the same afternoon they’re boiled. I spent much of my childhood either living in, or vacationing in, Savannah, GA. My mother was born and raised in Savannah, and all her relatives loved to fish, crab, and dig for clams. We regularly had meals that featured freshly caught crabs, the bodies of which were boiled intact in large pots; clams shucked and roasted or put into casseroles with at least three other types of fresh seafood; and fresh fish fried, grilled, or any other way one can imagine preparing it. Those meals always included cornbread baked from scratch, French fries or some other type of potato dish, and sometimes grits (oh how we LOVED these delicious carbs!). The meals were topped off with some sort of wonderfully rich dessert, such as my Aunt Dorothy’s delicious chocolate pecan cake, or fresh blackberry pie with a buttery, flaky crust. Sadly unaware of the fresh seafood delicacies placed before me, I gave into my finicky tastes and opted to eat only the sides and the desserts (I was blissfully unaware, in those early days, of the negative impact those sumptuous carb-laden desserts had on my body). Now that I appreciate the quality of crab and fish straight from the ocean, I live about 143 miles from the nearest ocean, and thus from the nearest fresh seafood. Stranded inland these days, I settle for refrigerated, canned crab for use in my dishes that feature crab.

Blue Star Crab, refrigerated and pasteurized as it is, does have a nice flavor and texture. The Blue Star Crab is a nice company to patronize, as well. According to the company’s mission statement, the company strives to provide a quality product while also maintaining concern for the environment. Blue Star has put sustainable policies in place that include reducing the use of energy and implementing recycling initiatives in all of its plants of operation. A one pound can of Blue Star Crab at Costco sells for $18.00, which less expensive by far than the $13.00 one pays for a half pound container of brand of pasteurized crab sold by HEB.

Since crab meat is expensive, some people may be tempted to use imitation crab meat. Resist the temptation. Most brands of imitation crab meat contain gluten. Imitation crab is really fish (usually Alaskan Pollock), chopped up and glued back together to make the fish-mixture look and act like crab. The starch used to glue the mush of fish together is usually wheat, although a few brands use tapioca flour. Either way, most brands are not gluten-free, and one company that does not put wheat in its imitation crab, Trans-Ocean, will not even guarantee that its imitation crab is gluten-free (eat at your own risk).

The idea, in general, of imitation crab is offensive to one’s mind and palate, but dear Reader, if after reading the information about imitation crab on the sites below, you still want to save money by substituting imitation crab in this gluten-free pasta dish, just be sure to verify the ingredients of the imitation crab you choose before you ingest it and thus accidentally glutenize yourself.

This extremely simple and elegant pasta dish is easy to make, and so rich and flavorful that no one would ever guess it’s also gluten-free. Because it’s rich, it’s filling, so the portions can be smaller and still be satisfying. As Giada De Laurentis points out, pasta in itself does not makes one gain weight, it’s the amount one eats of the pasta that leads to weight gain. The same, thankfully, can be said of cream, butter, and cheese! Serve up a portion of this delectable pasta and sauce, and enjoy without guilt or fear!

Gluten-Free Pasta with Creamy Crab Parmesan Sauce

*1 12 oz pkg of Lundberg’s gluten-free brown rice penne pasta
29 g (1/4 cup) finely chopped shallots
**4 tbls butter, melted
1 ½ cups heavy cream
***½ cup good quality cream sherry
****1 ½ cups shredded parmesan cheese
8 oz crab meat
1 tbls fresh, finely chopped oregano

– Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
– While the pasta is cooking, in a heavy pot sauté the shallots in the melted butter, just until translucent.
– When the shallots are just translucent, add the cream, sherry, and parmesan cheese to the butter /shallot mixture.
– Cook and stir over low to medium heat, just until the cheese is melted.
– Stir in the crab meat and chopped oregano to the sauce and cook over low heat a few minutes longer.
– Serve over the gluten-free pasta.

*Left-over cooked gluten-free pasta often has an unappealing texture when it’s reheated. Oneway to restore the freshly-cooked texture to pre-cooked gluten-free pasta is to place it in boiling water just until it’s heated through. Drain and serve as usual.

**I use cultured (European style) butter in all my cooking; it has a higher fat content that gives it a richer flavor and texture.

***By sherry, I mean sherry wine – definitely NOT cooking sherry, which is a low quality sherry with salt added. I use a sherry (Savory and James Cream Sherry) that’s not on the top-most shelf, but not on the bottom most shelf, either. The quality of sherry does make a difference to the quality of the dish.

****Better quality of parmesan cheese exist than Kirkland brand, but Kirkland brand Parmigiano-Reggiano is pretty good quality, and is by far a better quality cheese than Kraft Parmesan. it’s actually made in Italy, and it’s aged twenty-four months. See the links below for more information about Costco cheese:

Consider serving this pasta dish with a side arugula pear salad, sprinkled with a touch of finely chopped red onion, slivered almonds, and feta cheese, then drizzle it with roasted hazelnut vinaigrette.)


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