When I decided that the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year would be to publish 14 days of romantic recipes, I reached out to a few chef and cookbook author friends to see if they would like to get in on the fun. Author Jill Silverman Hough sent me a roundup of what she felt were her most “romance-worthy” dishes and I begged her to let us run the Five-Spice Crab Cocktails recipe from her book 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Serve with Wines You Love.
Why you need Five-Spice in your life
As you might already know, I’m obsessed with the aphrodisiac qualities of Five-Spice Powder. (After all, it truly is a blend of five historically noted aphrodisiacs: Cinnamon; Star Anise; Fennel; Black Pepper and Clove.) When used sparingly, (and it is best used sparingly), its beautiful balance of sweetness and spice can transform ordinary ingredients like chicken or quinoa into a complex, taste bud tingling, body warming masterwork of flavor.
A perfect marriage of flavors
Here, Jill uses the aphrodisiac spice blend to bring a unique brightness and allure to steamed, lump crabmeat (also an aphrodisiac). Comments Jill, “If you’re looking for an elegant way to start a meal, look no further. These crab cocktails are super-simple to make. But because the recipe features an indulgent ingredient, crab, it feels sophisticated and special-occasion. Ideally, I recommend using fresh crab from a good fishmonger. But canned crab will work as well if you can’t get great fresh crab.” Incidentally, this recipe is from the Viognier chapter of 100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Serve with Wines You Love. If you really want to bring the experience of this dish to life, pair it with a beautiful bottle of floral Viognier.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder plus more for garnish (see below)
- 12 ounces cooked lump crab meat picked over
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley plus leaves for garnish
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and five-spice powder. Set aside. (You can prepare the mayonnaise mixture up to 3 days in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator.)
- In a medium bowl, combine the crab, chopped parsley, and shallot. Add about 2 tablespoons of the mayonnaise mixture, gently tossing to combine. Taste, ideally with your wine, and add more lemon juice if you like.
- Spoon the crab mixture into decorative glasses. Top with the remaining mayonnaise mixture, dividing it evenly. Sprinkle with a dash of five-spice powder, garnish with the parsley leaves, and serve.
NOTE: Chinese five-spice powder is available in either the spice section or the ethnic or Asian section of most major supermarkets. Besides using it in this recipe, you can sprinkle it on roasted meats and vegetables and stir it into rice.
photo by Lucy Schaeffer
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