Fermented Black Bean-Braised Louisiana Blue Crab
In a heavy-bottomed saucepot over medium-high heat, toast crab shells in 1/2 cup oil. Once shells are deep red in color, remove them from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
To pot, add remaining 1 1/2 cups oil and flour to make a roux. Continue to stir roux over medium-high heat until it is a dark chocolate brown and smells nutty, about 20 minutes. To hot roux, stir in onions and crab paste and let toast for 2 minutes. Caramelization of natural sugars in onion should turn roux almost black. Next, add pepper, celery, garlic, ginger and chili paste. Continue to stir mixture over medium-high heat for another 5 minutes.
Stir in black bean paste and then whisk in stock. Tie lemongrass stalk, lime leaf and cinnamon stick together with 1 foot butcher’s twine and drop into pot, leaving end of string tied loosely to a pot handle for easy removal. Finally, add toasted gumbo crabs back to pot along with black pepper and dried fermented black beans. Bring sauce to a simmer, stirring regularly to prevent scorching.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes, skimming and discarding any skin that forms on top. To finish, season sauce to taste with fish sauce, lime juice, hot sauce and salt.
After you’ve sliced green tops off scallions, remove roots from white bases and split bases lengthwise. Set a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add a small amount of neutral oil. Season bases with salt and pepper and add them to pan along with andouille and okra. Pan roast for 5 minutes, or until andouille is caramelized and onion bases are tender. Shake pan occasionally to prevent scorching.
Add picked crabmeat and cilantro stems to finished sauce and remove pot from heat. (Once crabmeat is added to sauce, do not bring it back to a simmer, as this will overcook meat.) Serve generous portions of sauce over rice, being sure to include half of a whole gumbo crab with each serving. Garnish with roasted scallion whites, seared andouille, okra and sliced scallion tops.