Monday, January 06, 2014

NOW THAT THE HO-HO-HO-ING AND THE HO-HUMMING ARE OVER AND DONE WITH…





The Festive Season maybe over for another year, but it doesn’t mean we can’t continue in a celebratory mode.   

Believing in recycling, I kept my Christmas wrapping paper. Come midnight on New Year’s Eve I wrapped up 2013 securely,and packed it away in the back of a cupboard. In case I need an extra year somewhere down the track, I’ll have 2013 up my sleeve or in the cupboard, enabling me to recycle it if the need arises.  All I’ll have to do is remember where I stored it, of course.   

My Christmas-New Year was a very pleasant, relaxed affair. I hope yours was, too.

A good friend of long-standing shared a chilled-out Christmas Day with me. Actually, my “good friend of long-standing” was my ex-husband, Randall.  A couple of weeks earlier I’d extended an invitation to him to spend Christmas with me if he had no other plans.  He gladly accepted.

We spent most of the day sitting at my outdoor table in the shade of a generously protective, leafy tree while we exchanged stories and enjoyed much laughter. We sipped on a cold beverage or three. The sipping was necessary to keep our vocal chords well-lubricated. 

Departed friends were toasted.  Sadly, we lost a couple during 2013; but they’ll remain forever in our hearts; our memories of them never lost.  We toasted friends of years past who we don’t see often; we toasted each other and the longevity of our friendship. Our marriage may not have lasted the test of time; life doesn’t always work out the way we want it to, nor does it follow our dreams of perfection; but Randall and I will always remain good friends. We’ve known each other since 1963…making it 51 years coming up; and that’s a long time.  And to waste that time in negativity would be just that…a waste.

Throughout all of our toasting, not a slice of toast was ingested.  Somehow, we managed not to get toasted, either! 

A disclaimer; not a squirt of sunscreen was harmed during the course of the day; but harm was perpetrated upon a few Crownies and a bottle of Bundy; but no harm was caused to us or to any others! 

I stuck to my plan of not having a full-on, sit-down Christmas lunch; been there and done that too many times! I no longer fall into that trap.  Proof, in certain aspects, with age comes maturity and commonsense!  Please note the “certain aspects”!

We grazed leisurely through the day and night on platters of irresistible edibles.  Even though I declared adamantly I wouldn’t go overboard, food-wise for Christmas…I did fall off the provisions’ craft, of course, without trying; without a lifejacket. I can’t help myself.  It always happens, no matter how much I vow not to succumb to the follies of the Season!

I still have enough food left over to see me through to Easter. In my favour, because I didn’t go crazy and have the burdensome lunch or dinner, my stove was in no way abused during the day.   Instead, I put together platters of cold hors d’oeuvres, cheeses, mixed nuts, crystallized ginger and fresh fruits, all of which enabled comfortable grazing whether sitting, standing or passing by. 

Also, I received the best Christmas present ever when presented with a freshly-caught mud crab. Knowing how much I love muddies, Randall set a crab pot in the lake in front of where he lives on Christmas Eve hoping he’d nab one especially for me. Lo and behold! Christmas morning upon checking the pot, therein sat a fat mud crab of legal size and gender.   “Lee” was scrawled across its carapace. What a wonderful gift!

It was decreed the crab was mine and mine alone to enjoy on Boxing Day.  I didn’t argue; I gave in without a fight; with not a single urge to argue. Never do I look a gift mud crab in the mouth! 

Our Christmas this year, the first spent together since Christmas Day 1998 was very pleasant.  To our amazement, upon looking at the time, we discovered we’d talked into the wee small hours. The time, I said (not the Walrus) had come to pull down the shutters; draw the curtains; blow out the candles and bid Christmas 2013 farewell.

Randall left mid-morning Boxing Day, weary but happy from our pleasant sojourn.

Usually I cook crabs, whole, in boiling salted water with a scant spoonful of sugar added, but Randall had cleaned the crab immediately upon lifting it out of the crab pot. Because it was presented to me cleaned, minus its carapace, but unshelled otherwise, I chose to cook my treasured gift in my wok with olive oil and garlic.

My Boxing Day lunch was delicious.  I hope I have many more crabs in 2014. You know what I mean – of the mud crab variety!

Happy New Year; crabs or not!  My wish is for 2014 to be prosperous and generous in every way...for one and all.

Remember - continue treating yourself…you deserve it!

Barbecued Mud Crab: Grab 2x1kg mud crabs, cleaned and cut into quarters. Crack the claws with back of a heavy knife. Combine 190ml olive oil, 70ml lemon juice, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 small red onion, sliced, 1tsp dried chilli flakes, sea salt and ground black pepper in airtight container; add crab quarters; toss to coat; cover; marinate in fridge, 1 hour, tossing occasionally.  Combine 2tbs sea salt and 1tbs finely-grated lemon zest; set aside. Heat barbecue to med-high, Cook crab pieces for 10-15mins, turning regularly or until shell turns orange and crab cooked through; don’t overcook. Sand crabs can be substituted; cook less time…around 5-6mins for the smaller crabs. Don’t forget the finger-bowls!

Ginger Mud Crabs: Sauce: Combine 2tbs oyster sauce, 1/4tsp white pepper, 1/2tsp sesame oil, 1/4tsp fish sauce, 1tsp sugar, 3/4c water and 1/2tbs cornflour. Clean 2 mud crabs; cut into segments; crack claws. Coat cut parts with cornflour. Heat 2c oil in wok.  When hot, add crab pieces; cook until the shells turns orange, remove; strain oil. Add 2tbs oil to cleaned wok; add 2tbs minced ginger and 4 chopped garlic cloves; fry until fragrant; add crab; stir; add sauce. Add 4 shallots, cut into 2-inch lengths; serve. 

How to Cook a Mud Crab: If you’ve got a live mud crab it’s better, and more humane, to render it dormant by placing it in the freezer for half an hour. Boil a large pot of salted water; add 2tsp sugar and when the crab is dormant, drop it into the pot. It will begin to turn red/orange immediately. A 1 kilogram crab takes about 10 minutes, so it is roughly a minute per 100 grams.When it is cooked remove the crab from the water; refresh it under cold running water to prevent further cooking; or place it in a large bowl of iced water.

To clean a mud crab, or any other crab: Turn it upside down to reveal the tail. Pull the tail away from the body and snap it off where it joins the upper shell (carapace). Lift the carapace from the back towards the front and pull it away. It is advisable to do it over a strainer to catch the debris for disposal. Remove anything adhering to the carapace and rinse the shell for later use. Remove the filters along each side and discard them. Break off the mouth parts from the front of the body; discard them. Rinse the innards from the middle of the body. Break the crab in half down the middle using both hands, or cut through with a heavy knife. Strike the claws briskly with the back of the knife blade to crack them. Crack the other segments of the forelimbs the same way. Reassemble the parts of the crab on a large plate and replace the carapace for visual effect. Serve accompanied by salad and cocktail sauce and garnished with lemon. 

OR: Once cleaned forget all the fussy and fancy bother of reassembling it…just bog in with both hands and let the juices flow down your chin!  Standing over the kitchen sink while doing so is a good plan!  And forget the salad and cocktail sauce, mud crab needs no other accompaniments other than a bowl of vinegar, and perhaps, some very fresh bread and butter…not margarine…butter!!!

Here I go again…drooling, just at the thought!

28 comments:

  1. I have to tell you that food looked so good. I mean great.

    I am so glad your ex came - I have another friend who does that.

    I am glad you had a nice holiday and welcome to 2014!

    sandie

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  2. What a brilliant post Lee ~ mmmm mud crab :)

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  3. ...and a good time was had by all, except the crab. He didn't live to rue the day.

    Your day sounds perfect, Lee, just the way Christmas should be. Just about everyone I've spoken to so far had a quiet Christmas this year. I think we had all run out of steam by the time it came around. I know I had...

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  4. That sounds absolutely blissful. And I am glad to hear of another 'over caterer'. Can't help myself. Don't really try.

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  5. Hi Sandie...yes, we had a pleasant, lazy time. I'm glad we're still mates and were able to share it.

    Now the 2014 race has begun!

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  6. Hey Carol...ditto re the mud crab. :)

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  7. It was a great day, Robyn. I've gotten to the stage in my life that working like a crazed mad woman on Christmas Day is no longer! "Relax" is the key word now for me.

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  8. )h! EC....I've always been guilty of over-catering. That's not going to change now. And I always turn up at the home of others armed to the limit and over. It was the way we were brought up, I guess.

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  9. That crab looks so sad!

    I had lunch with a friend the other day and she was lamenting how she had overeaten because she had eaten a whole one. She apparently forgot I was vegan...I have no idea how much crab that is. So I asked, "Is that a lot?"

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  10. They always seem too much work to me.

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  11. Sad? There ain't nothing sad about a crab, RK! They are delicious eating.

    I can easily eat a whole one...two or three even...they are delicious!

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  12. Crabs aren't hard work, Cosmo, unless you make it so.

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  13. Crustaceans and cold beer... you have my full attention madame.

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  14. Aha! There is stirring in the Highlands!

    It's a wonderful combination, Chef...and you've reminded me of a story I must tell...

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  15. What's wrong with recycling Christmas paper?
    I've had some of mine since 1956!

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  16. Did I say anything is wrong with recycling Christmas wrapping paper, Adullamite? I think not.

    And there's nothing wrong with wrapping up years, either!

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  17. I'm glad you and Randall are still friends and had such a lovely day. Your food that day sounds AWESOME! My sister and I worked on Christmas dinner for two days and it was all over in 15 minutes. :) I like your plan better.

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  18. Hey there Lynn....Once upon a time I used to do similar to what you did. We used to have open house Christmas morning...an extended "Happy Hour" where friends would pop in at will for a couple of drinks and platters of "pickies" to munch on. In the meantime, I'd be running back and forth from the kitchen getting our hot Christmas sit-down lunch underway. And like you preparation started a couple of so days before.

    Once all the pop-in guests left, we'd have a sit-down hot Christmas lunch with all the trimmings imaginable for around 14 people or so. I must have been insane!!

    And then later, I worked in the hospitality industry in management and for a few years as chef/cook...so I've had my fill of the big Christmas Day lunch affairs...laid-back style is the way to go for me from now on.

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  19. Sounds like a nice, pleasant holiday. Plus you got to spend it outdoors! Crab looks tasty!

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  20. Hi there Dexter! Good to see you! It was a hot day here, although not unbearably hot...so being outside with a cooling, gentle breeze blowing was good.

    I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year...I wish you all the best for 2014. :)

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  21. I do not recall ever hearing of a mud crab before, but if it tastes anything like the other kinds of crab I have eaten, I am quite sure that your Boxing Day meal was indeed delicious. By the way, I am especially fond of Maryland crab cakes (or anything similar) if you ever feel like sending a care package my way.

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  22. Oh! Jerry...I sent some over your way, all packaged up but the Fedex guys got hungry when overcome by the aroma of them, and they ate them all! Sorry!

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  23. How grand that yawl stayed friends for FIFTY ONE YEARS. I am glad yawl had such a wonderful time and I did not save or wrap up 2013 because I for one am hoping for a better year. Peace

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  24. Yep, Jerry! Life can be so cruel sometimes!

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  25. Hey there, Lady Di. I can see no point in being bad friends. Just because a marriage breaks down, doesn't mean spite etc., has to step in, in my opinion.

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  26. Mmmmm. Crab. Had crab sandwiches for lunch. Edible crab, that is. The only type we tend to eat over here.

    I love devilled crab. Lots of mustard, worcester sauce, dash of chilli sauce. Plenty of bread and butter. Mmmmm.

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  27. G'day, AJ...I love crabs; mud crabs in particular. The best way to have them, to my way of thinking is the simplest way...just boiled up in the salted water; then chilled a bit; served with a bowl of finger; some pepper and salt; and loads of fresh bread and butter....and a giant finger bowl at the ready! :)

    Now I know what I want for lunch, but won't be having! ;)

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