Once upon a time, I lived in Virginia Beach. Lovely place. Best part? You could find she-crab soup on most restaurant menus. This soup is my liquid soul mate. It’s rich and creamy, a bit of boozy sweetness from sherry, and chock-full of crab flavor. Traditionally, it’s served with roe as a garnish (roe is only found in the females, hence the “she” part).
I haven’t had this soup since leaving VA, and it’s continued to haunt my dreams. Well, I was grocery shopping the other day and crab leg clusters were on sale, and I thought it was finally time to try and recreate it. I live in land-locked Colorado, so while we have mountains abound, there isn’t much fresh seafood. So this is my interpretation of she-crab soup, based on what I had available at a reasonable price. I’ve gotta say, I was deliriously happy with the results. Baby G and the Hubs both licked their bowls clean. The red bell pepper isn’t traditional, but I like the piquant sweetness they add, as well as a little boost of veggie power. This would also usually be made with half and half or heavy cream, but I used whole milk and think that it was plenty rich enough.
While doing research, I looked at a lot of recipes that used fish stock, and I’ve got to say, I think that is a mistake. Crab and fish do not taste the same. It may seem like a lot of work to make your own crab stock, but I think it’s totally worth the extra step!
- 1 lb crab leg clusters
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, 1/4 inch dice
- 1 red bell pepper, 1/4 inch dice
- Bay leaf
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 2 cups crab stock (recipe follows)
- 2 cups whole milk
- zest of 1 lemon, plus juice to taste (2-3 tsp)
- lemon wedges for serving
- Remove meat from crab legs, reserve meat, and use shells for stock.
- Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add onion, bell pepper, and bay leaf, season with salt, and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Stir in crab stock, whisking to prevent lumps.
- Stir in milk, whisking to prevent lumps.
- Bring to a bare simmer, and let cook for 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low, stir in lemon zest and juice.
- Taste and adjust with more salt or lemon juice if necessary. Remove bay leaf.
- Stir in crab meat, and serve. (You can reserve a bit of crab meat and lemon zest for garnish; chives would also be lovely.)
- Reserved crab shells
- 1 yellow onion, large dice
- 2 carrots, large dice
- 2 celery stalks, large dice
- Combine crab shells, onion, carrot, and celery in a pot.
- Add enough water to cover ingredients by an inch or so.
- Place pot on stove, and bring to simmer.
- Simmer gently (don’t boil) for 30 minutes.
- Strain stock, and discard solids. (It’s best to strain a second time, through cheesecloth, in order to catch any small shell particles.)