Dr. Dinteville's Crab Salad

Georges Perec's miraculous Life: a User's Manual (or La vie mode d'emploi) describes the contents (including people) of the various apartments in a large Parisian apartment-block building on Rue Simon-Crubellier. The novel is, in a sense, a single extremely long itemized list. Within each item on this list (that is, within each apartment) are still more itemized lists. Here is one bit of the story that includes an actual recipe, cooked up by the sadly unappealing Dr Dinteville ("People don't like him much, thinking he lacks warmth, but they appreciate his efficiency and punctuality and stay with him."). This doctor has long "nourished a secret passion: he would like to leave his name to a cooking recipe: he wavers between 'Crab Salad a la Dinteville', 'Crab Salad Dinteville" or, more enigmatically, 'Dinteville Salad'." (There's a bit of a conversation about this salad going on at Chocolate and Zucchini, about three-quarters down on the linked page).

For six servings; three live crabs—or three maias (spider crabs) or six small tourteau crabs; half a pound of pasta shells; a small Stilton cheese; 2 oz. butter; a small glass of congnac; a tablespoon of horseradish sauce; a few drops of Worcester sauce; fresh mint leaves; three dill seeds. For the court-bouillon: sea salt, peppercorns, 1 onion. For the mayonnaise: one egg yolk, strong mustard, salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar, papricka, a teaspoon of tomato double-concentrate.
1. Using a large pot three-quarters full of cold water, make a court-bouillon with sea salt, 5 white peppercorns, 1 peeled onion sliced in two. Boil for 10 minuts. Leave to cool. Immerse the shellfish in the lukewarm court-bouillon. Bring back to boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Take out the shellfish and leave to cool.
2. Bring the court-bouillon back to the boil. Sprinkle the pasta shells into it. Stir and boil for 7 minutes. The pasta must stay firm. drain the pasta shells, rinse quickly in cold water, and put to the side with a drop of olive oil to prevent sticking.
3. Mix in a mortar with a pestle or wooden spatula the Stilton, moistened with a little of the cognac and Worcester sauce, with the butter and horseradish sauce. Pound well to obtain a creamy but not too liquid consistency.
4. Detach the legs and claws of the cooled shellfish. Empty the flesh out of them into a a large bowl. Crack the shells, remove the central cartilage, drain, empty out the flesh and soft parts. Chop into large pieces and add the cushed dill seeds and hte mint leaves chopped very fine.
5. Make a very stiff mayonnaise. Colour it with the paprika and tomato double-concentrate.
6. Place the pasta shells in a large salad bowl and stir in very gently the chopped shellfish, the Stilton, and the mayonnaise. Decorate as desired with chiffonade of lettuce, radishes, prawn, cucumber, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, olives, orange quarters, etc. Serve very cool.
[translated by David Bellos]

1 comment:

  1. Just made this, the brandy and stilton sauce is predictably fierce so I didn't use much of it.

    It was nice though. Also, we ate it hot, contrary to the instructions.


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