Salt-and-Pepper Crabs

Cullen chef Hamish McLeay describes his chile (or chilli) oil as "nutty with a mild zing".

Salt-and-Pepper Crabs
Deep frying the crabs in a chile infused oil gives them with a nutty, mild zing.
Yield: serves 4

For the Chile Oil

  • 8 cups vegetable oil
  • 12 long, hot red wax chiles, chopped
  • 1 (3 1/2'') piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled, and chopped

For the Crabs

  • 34 cup flour
  • 12 cup sweet paprika
  • 2-3 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (1 1/2–2 lb.) large blue or dungeness crabs, thoroughly scrubbed

Instructions

  1. For the chile oil: Put oil, chiles, ginger, and garlic in a wok or large deep pot, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until garlic and ginger are lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside until oil takes on an orange tint, 8 hours or overnight. Strain, discard solids, and set aside.
  2. For the crabs: Combine flour, paprika, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Place crabs belly side up on a cutting board, cut in half from head to tail with a large sharp knife, then cut in half again crosswise between the legs, and set aside.
  3. Heat chile oil in a wok or large deep pot over medium-high heat to 325° on a candy thermometer. Dredge crabs in seasoned flour, then carefully add to hot oil and deep-fry until bubbles begin to subside and seasoned flour turns deep red, about 1 12 minutes per side. Transfer crabs to a large serving bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon.