THE CHEF: Renee Touponce
Restaurants: Port of Call and Oyster Club, both in Mystic, Conn.
What She’s Famous For innovative dishes that highlight the fresh seafood that is caught locally and the family farms in coastal Connecticut. The kitchens are helmed by two thriving restaurants in a rapidly growing New England food town.
“IN JULY everyone around here goes crabbing,” said Reneé Touponce. “I go between two and four in the morning with a net and kayak, or just buckets if the tide is low. Then we camp out and cook the crabs after some sleep.” Ms. Touponce’s final Slow Food Fast recipe celebrates this summer ritual and messy outdoor eating in all its splendor. “We put out a bunch of newspapers and eat the steamed crabs with grilled corn and melted butter,” she explained.
Because of its simplicity, the success of this dish comes directly from its ingredients’ quality. Try to find fresh blue crabs that can be “best cooked soon after they’ve been caught,” According to Touponce. Don’t bother on a grill that is hot, uncut ears of corn steam and become sweet from the inside and enchantingly fragrant with smoke. The consummate chef, Touponce, ensures her melted butter has a touch of extra flavorfulness: infused with shallot, garlic herbs, red chiles, and other herbs. It amplifies the flavor but requires little from the cook. If you’d want, a squeeze of lemon can also be added to the dish. Napkins for extra napkins are essential.
Kitty Greenwald is a chef and food writer and co-author of the book ‘Slow Fires’ (Clarkson Potter)
Steamed Blue Crabs With Grilled Corn and Warm Herb Butter
If you’re not sure how long to steam crabs for, crack an enormous shell before draining the pan. If the flesh appears opaque, then it’s cooked.
Total Time25 minutes
- Four ears of corn, unshucked
- Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt
- Twelve large blue crabs that are live and active.
- 1 Cup Old Bay seasoning
- 1 Cup (2 pieces) salted butter
- One small shallot finely cut into slices
- Four cloves of garlic Finely grated
- 1 leaf of a bay
- 6 to 8 sprigs of Thyme
- Two bird’s eye or any other tiny red chiles, finely chopped
- The grill should be heated to medium-high. While it is heating the grill, soak the corn in salted and cold water for a minimum of 10 minutes.
- Add three inches of water into an enormous, tall pot placed over a high heat. Bring the water to a simmer. When the water is boiling, add crabs in layers, with plenty of sprinkles in Old Bay between them. Cover the pot and cook until shells turn vibrant red, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the cooking. Continue to let the crabs simmer in the pool that is covered for 5-10 minutes so that the meat is cooked to perfection.
- In a separate pot, melt one stick of butter over medium-high temperature and leave the second stick at room temperature until it begins to melt. Add shallots, garlic bay leaf, rosemary, and chiles to the pot of butter, and once the butter is boiling, stirring, cook until butter becomes fragrant, which takes about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the heat, but remain warm.
- Remove the corn from the bowl and place them on the grill. Cook, turning frequently until the husks are black all around and kernels yield when squeezed, approximately 10 minutes. Remove the husks carefully (the the corn is extremely hot) and then roll the ears in the softened butter, before sprinkling with salt and pepper.
- For serving, put crabs and corn grilled on a table lined with newspaper. Pour the melted butter, including aromatics and all, into large bowls to dip.