Crab Salad Roulade with Carrot Gelee

My sous chef asked me to taste some carrot juice he had just made and asked me, “What do you think about pairing this with crab salad?”  I have to admit, I didn’t really know what to say.  The bright, intensely orange colored liquid was fresh and sweet, the essence of carrot.  I liked it.  I like crab salad.  But, I couldn’t really picture what kind of dish he had in mind.

I had no idea the dish would look like this:

As it turns out, the crab salad roulade with carrot gelee is one of my favorite new dishes off the spring menu.  Not only because it is extremely visually appealing with the white and red-rimmed overlapping discs of radish against the shiny, almost shockingly orange pool of carrot juice, but also because of how the flavors and textures work together as well.  It is a pleasure to make and plate this dish from start to finish everyday.

The Ingredients

Crab Salad Roulade

  • lemon zest
  • orange zest
  • fresh lemon juice
  • red onion brunoise
  • jalapeno pepper
  • minced fine herbs (parsley, chervil)
  • 3-4 Tb aioli
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb fresh Johah crab meat
  • shaved radish
  • 2 sheets of gelatin
  • 1/4 cup of cream

Initially, I was a little intimidated by how difficult the dish seemed to be, but looks can be deceiving.  As long as you have all the ingredients prepared in advance and ready to go, the crab roulades are actually incredibly simple to make once you’ve mastered the technique.

The Process

Bloom 2 sheets of gelatin in ice water.  Pour the cream into a small pot and set aside.

Drain and press dry 1 lb of fresh Jonah crab meat and gently pick through the meat to make sure there are no shell remnants.  In a large mixing bowl, gently fold in all of the above ingredients (citrus zest, onion, jalapeno, herbs, aioli, salt).  Taste the mixture. The crab salad needs to taste bright and citrusy.  Add more fresh lemon juice and salt if necessary.

Once the crab salad is ready, warm up the cream until it is hot enough to melt the 2 sheets of gelatin.  Do not let the cream boil, since gelatin will become deactivated if it gets too hot.  Fold the gelatin-cream mixture into the crab salad.  Refrigerate to allow the crab salad to set.  Adding gelatin to the crab salad allows you to pipe the mixture into a nice, tight cylinder that will hold its shape without bleeding any of the juices.

In the meantime, prepare the radishes for wrapping the roulade.  Wash radishes thoroughly, trim off both ends and shave into thin coins using a mandolin.  The slices will be about 1.5 millimeters thick…they should not be paper-thin.  Blanch very briefly in salted boiling water (2 seconds) and drain immediately onto a tray lined with paper towels.  Press dry with paper towels.  The radish coins should be pliable but with the red rims bright and intact.  If the radishes are cooked for too long, they red color will bleed into the white part of the radish and the color will fade very quickly.

At this point, the gelatin in the crab mixture should be set.  Transfer the crab mixture into a piping bag and trim the tip til it is a half inch wide.  Spread out a piece of plastic wrap onto your work surface.  Lay out 2 overlapping rows of the radish coins.  Pipe the crab salad mixture.  Lift up the edge of the plastic wrap closest to your body and carefully roll.  Tie off the ends securely to ensure a tight cylinder.

Plating

Slice off both knotted ends of the roulade.  Find the seam of the plastic wrap. Carefully unroll.  Place in the center of the carrot gelee set in the plate.  Garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche, caviar, shaved carrot, micro herbs, edible flowers, and (not pictured) a half of a deep-fried, tempura soft shell crab claw on either end of the roulade.  Served table-side with a drizzle of simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette.