Basque crab casserole – Txangurro as they call it in Spain, is a delicious dish that can be made with any crab meat, though on the Basque coasts, the spider crab is used. The crab meat and sauce are then returned to the crab shell for a final pass under the flame. Because a single crab yields so little meat, it is not unusual to augment it with another kind of fish. This recipe for Basque crab casserole might have a relatively long list of ingredients, but its preparation is so simple that even beginner cooks can make it with success. Called “Txangurro” in Spanish, this dish is a light, low calorie meal option that is particularly well-suited to serving in warmer seasons. The key to making it properly is taking the time to clean the crab thoroughly. Home cooks should also be careful when broiling the casserole because it can burn if left under a broiler too long.
4 spider crabs, blue crabs or 1 lb fresh or tinned crab meat
11 oz white fish, cooked and flaked
4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup Brandy de Jerez
1 cup tomato sauce
5 fl oz white wine
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped parsley
4 tbsp fine bread crumbs
1 tbsp butter
Put the live crabs into tepid salted water. Bring them slowly to a boil and boil for 15 minutes. Drain and leave till cool enough to handle. Pry off the shells and reserve them, cleaned and oiled, for use as casseroles. From the crabs, discard the spongy gills and stomach, but save any liquid from the shell. Scoop out the soft, dark meat and flaky white meat. Crack the legs with a mallet and extract the meat. In a frying pan or cazuela heat the oil and sauté the onion until softened.
Add the crab meat and flaked cooked fish to the pan. Heat the brandy in a soup ladle, ignite it and pour over the crab. When the flames die down, add the tomato sauce, wine, cayenne, salt, pepper, and parsley. Cook for 15 minutes, adding a little reserved liquid if needed to thin the sauce. Spoon the mixture into the crab shells or into 4 oiled ramekins. Sprinkle the tops with the bread crumbs, dot them with butter, and put under a hot grill or into a preheated hot oven until the tops are browned, about 5 minutes.