An "Elevated" Salad That's Sure to Impress
For almost a decade I've lived a relatively short distance from Chesapeake Bay, but have never really gotten into crab. There are surprisingly few shops in my neck of Virginia bursting at the seams with locally caught crab, so the cost of real lump crab meat can be just as expensive as other regions. With crab being such a spendy ingredient, I've decided to utilize it in a dish that would showcase and enhance its delicate, coveted flavor, instead of masking it behind heavy flavors and breading.
This layered crab salad has some of the most refreshing accents. The meaty, jumbo lump crab is buttery, a bit sweet, and pairs nicely with avocado, which has similar qualities. The real flavor enhancement comes in the form of grapefruit with its juicy texture and sweet, tangy punch. The flavor combination of the delicately savory shellfish + creamy, sweet avocado + tangy, sour citrus results in a bright, sophisticated flavor profile. The beautiful flavors are accented with the crunchy texture from raw red onion and almonds.
Being a salad, this dish is an absolute breeze to actually prepare; since the crab meat comes ready-to-eat, there is no cooking involved. Presentation is key here. Take a little extra time for your mise en place and make sure all of your ingredients are beautifully and evenly chopped. To create the layered effect, use a culinary ring mold, or a mini spring form pan sprayed with a little olive oil for an easy release.
The major draw to this dish is having a medley of clean, fresh, vibrant flavors. If you’re investing in good crab meat, do the same with the fruits and herbs so they may shine. Whenever working with cut avocado, squeeze on fresh citrus juice (e.g. lime) in order to slow oxidation/browning. The dressing is quick and easy, and requires even less prep than cutting up all the elements. We are squeezing and juicing the leftover membrane of the grapefruit after cutting out segments because it reduces waste and gives us just the right amount of juice. For the basic vinaigrette, play around with the acid to oil balance, as well as additional flavorings, until you get an emulsified texture and bold flavor. As for layering, the building order is completely up to you and what you find visually pleasing. The only things I would recommend are starting with a stable, sturdy base (like tomato or avocado) and topping off with crunchy almonds for maximum texture and minimal sogginess.