Crab Thermidor and jacket potato
I’ve often mentioned that it’s surprising how often the best thoughts come to you at the least expected moments – and in cooking this seems to happen to me with quite staggering regularity.
I can be pottering in the garden, driving home from work or in the middle of watching a film when an idea for a recipe comes to me, and I hastily scrabble to get something noted down on my phone or more often a scrap of paper that hangs around in my work bag for days before I remember it’s there.
This time, it happened as my wife was in the kitchen making herself some fishcakes for supper.
I’m currently on rather a draconian diet, but am getting my culinary kicks by testing recipes and trying out new ideas both at home and at work. There is, you’ll not be surprised to hear, an almost endless line of willing testers and tasters!
Tracy had made her fishcakes the ‘proper’ way, which is by making jacket potatoes and scooping out the cooked flesh, and as I snooped over her shoulder I thought about the potato skins, which were going to be used in a cheesy nacho-type snack later on.
I remarked upon how nice it would be to stuff the fishcake mix back into the potatoes. It was then only a short leap from fishcake-mix-filled potatoes to adding a bubbling layer of cheese.
From here, I made the connection to lobster thermidor and from there to using crab, a cheaper option, but just as tasty. I also factored in a little spinach, as it goes so well with baked fish and seafood, and is great in creamy potato-based dishes. And there it was – a lovely-sounding dish: crab thermidor jacket spuds.
I envisioned a deep shell of crisp potato, stuffed full of rich creamy mash bound with spinach, butter, herbs and lots of crab meat, topped with a bubbling topping of Gruyère cheese and a dusting of Parmesan to give a final crispy golden crust.
Add a glass of big buttery chardonnay and a nice salad of crisp green leaves, and you have a perfect springtime supper.
The Thermidor preparation for crab and lobster is one of the real old traditional haute cuisine preparations, and it’s certainly not shy of the cream, butter, eggs and booze. It’s this rich, heady decadence that I think sits well with the rustic simplicity of a jacket potato. The bourgeois and the paysan, together in harmony.
Of course, if you don’t like crab, then any other seafood or shellfish will do – scallops for example, or a few chunks of haddock (maybe even smoked?) or you could go crazy and substitute chicken pieces for the fishy element – the creamy sauce and spinach will work just as well, perhaps adding a few mushrooms would work out nicely? It’s up to you. Just as long as you remember to top the dish with plenty of cheese for that all-important bubbly crust.
My crabmeat came in a nice pasteurised twin-pack from the good folks down at Sailbrand on Red Doles Lane – they also have live lobsters for the more adventurous cooks among you!
Wherever you source your fish, do try and keep your shopping local – it’s good for everyone in the community. Now, to those heavenly spuds … Aprons on!