Finding time for spider crab


The last few weeks of my life have been all about crabs and clocks. In a literal way but also, and perhaps more importantly, in a symbolic way. The clocks symbolize the time I haven’t had, and crabs, perhaps my favorite food of all, are a good symbol for all the food madness that’s been going on around me. We’ve had very interesting and lovely guests over the last few weeks, lots of exciting projects and many more sumptuous meals. Around two weeks ago I bought the most luscious spider crabs at the market and had all kind of ideas for preparing them. Time did not allow me to cook them how I had planned so I enjoyed them with a simple glass of wine and of course mayonnaise. Since then we’ve been filming a cooking show here in Médoc with lots of good food and even a few crabs but they too were enjoyed in a simple way. We had a marvellous time, making new discoveries every day and made frequent visits to one of my favorite places, the ‘Côté Gironde’ brocante in St. Christoly. Anne Bouteillier has so many beautiful objects, too many, and I’ve got my eye on a clock in her store that may be the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t work which suits me fine, it means there is no rush, that I have all the time in the world.




Now that the film crew has left us we’re again just by ourselves here in the countryside and time is once again on my side, allowing me to indulge in my cravings. The first thing on my list, spider crab.

I have always had a special fondness for crabs. There are over four thousand species of them, tiny ones, giant ones. They are all beautiful, born in the sea and I love how they move sideways. Ever since I was a child, I have fond memories of seafood restaurants in Hong Kong. In Asia, it is customary to see your seafood order ‘alive and snapping’ brought to your table before being cooked. As soon as the adults would loose themselves in conversation I would slide down from my chair, run off to the seafood tanks and explore the mysterious world of the sea. Great big fish, tiger prawns, all sorts of crabs, and more crabs. Crab is what I wanted most, so I would cheekily tell the waiters that my parents wanted crabs at our table, and if it was possible to fry them in chilli and black bean sauce, as a side dish. Often I would even finish them before anyone noticed what I was up to.

Salicornia as a side dish.
Salicornia as a side dish.



I guess this craving for crabs has never left me, I’m under their spell I think. The long claws are so elegant to my eye, the spiky armour makes them look like little warriors. In a way it’s a shame to eat them, but then I can’t resist the sweet chunky meat.
Here are two recipes I made this week – one is French inspired and the other one Asian. I am happy now.

Many thanks to Anne Bouteillier and her amazing ‘Côté Gironde’ antiquités/ brocantes store, Place de la Mairie, 33340 St Christoly de Médoc.


Spider crab macaroni gratin (serves 3-4)
230 g/ 8 ounces cooked spider crab meat (1-2 spider crabs, depending on size)
1 leek, white part only, chopped finely
5 leaves of Savoy cabbage, sliced finely
1 tomato, cut into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chopped tarragon
30 ml/ 2 tbsp white wine
A few threads of saffron
2 tbsp olive oil
30 g/ 2 tbsp unsalted butter
30 g/ 1/4 cup plain flour
475 ml/ 2 cups milk
150 g/ 1/3 pound comté or gruyere cheese, grated
50 g/ 2 ounces parmesan cheese and 50 g/ 2 ounces comté or gruyere cheese, to sprinkle on pasta
3 tbsp unsalted butter
A handful of fresh breadcrumbs (optional)
350 g/ 3/4 pound pasta shells – I used local shell pastas called Margot – they look like little seashells.
Salt & pepper
A dash of piment d’espelette

Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add leek and garlic. Stir in the crab meat, saffron, salt and black pepper. Add white wine and reduce for a minute and a half. Add tomatoes, sliced cabbage, chopped tarragon and continue to cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle with piment d’espelette.
Cook pasta shells in boiling water – it’s best to have them slightly undercooked. Drain under cold water and set aside.
Melt butter in a saucepan and add flour – pour milk slowly and whisk continuously for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 150 g grated Comté (or Gruyère)cheese and mix well until melted. Set aside.
Stir the crab into the cheese béchamel sauce. Pour mixture into the pasta – mix gently and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs (optional), parmesan and Comté cheese, dot with butter all over. Bake in a preheated oven 180°C/ 350F for 15-20 minutes until golden.


Cabbage crab rolls (for eight rolls)
8 cabbage leaves (1 per roll)
10 tbsp cooked spider crab meat
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 shallot, sliced finely
1 garlic clove, minced
15 ml/ 1 tbsp Shao xing wine (or sherry)
20 ml/ 1 & 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp grated ginger

Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the cabbage leaves 5 seconds on each sides. Set aside.
In the same pan, add a bit of olive oil and fry ginger, garlic and shallot for a few minutes. Add the crab meat and stir for a further 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add Chinese rice wine and reduce for a minute. Set aside.
To assemble:
Place one tablespoon of crab meat mixture in the cabbage leaf and roll. Slice the edges to make them even. Serve with sauce on the side.


72 thoughts on “Finding time for spider crab

  1. I will definitely try your cabbage rolls. They sound delicious! You must have gone many times to Lei Yue Mun. I too remember many wonderful seafood meals in HK, having lived there for 20 years.

    1. Bonsoir Jennifer! So happy to hear from a fellow ex-Hong Konger 🙂 Oh lots of fun times in Lei yue mun! And those great boats trips ending in a seafood feast with friends! The best crab I ever had in HK in at Victoria seafood in Citic center, and don’t get me started on hairy crabs in November!

  2. Bonjour Mimi! What a lovely thing to read from my living room in North Carolina with a glass of red wine, my 10 month old beagle terrier mix on my lap, the rain pouring down & a breeze coming in from the window. I myself have had an obsession with crabs (blue crabs specifically) as I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast catching them as a child and then feasting. Can’t wait to try your French and Asian inspired recipes instead of my southern ones! I wanted to say I absolutely love Manger. The authenticity of the content, the unique food, the photos, the stories etc. I’ve been reading your posts for a while and am never disappointed. Please keep doing what you’re doing! Merci! Addie

  3. Hi Mimi. Oh, fresh steamed crabs are one of my most favourite foods in the whole world. Here in the Pacific we have such beauties, but not spider crabs. You know, when I was at Cordon Bleu, the thing to do was to have a really big glass of wine to have enough courage to plunge the creature into the boiling water. And I know Julia Child advised a little bit of vodka in the water pot, because she said, after all, if you were to meet your end like that you’d probably appreciate a whole ton of vodka. Lol
    One of my very favourite ways to eat crab, besides freshly boiled with butter, is in creamy cheesy crepes. Mmm, now I want to head down to the fish monger. 🙂 Have a lovely week Mimi and I look forward to your next story. 🙂

    1. Bonjour Veronica! Oh, crabs and I are best of friends 🙂 My next desire is to cook crabs, especially spider crabs, in their shells, Basque style. I also want to try an indian-Singaporian recipe from my friend… Thank you for always being so kind! Mimix

  4. Can I say that I find your life in Medoc absolutely fascinating. I’m sure there are plenty of ups and downs just like we all have, but to be surrounded by so much beauty must be wonderful and gratifying.
    I love steamed crab with herb butter and a glass of wine. I could eat it everyday and be content. I do think I will make the cabbage rolls – they sound exquisite.

    I hope you give more details about the cooking show…..I hope we get to see it here in the states.

    wishing you a beautiful night ~

    1. Bonjour Sarah! So lovely to hear from you! We do lead a simple life here, as you say, with all the ups and downs just like everyone. But being able to discover something new everyday is something so special. I appreciate every single moment, meeting new people who teach me amazing things, whether it’s related to nature, cooking or the sea! It’s like a little family adventure. Bonne journée, Mimix

  5. So, which clock do you desire…..I spied a few!I actually have a similar one in my kitchen in the first store shot!
    COOKING SHOW???Will it come to the USA?DO tell please!!!!!!!

    1. Bonjour ‘Contessa’! Ah! Which clock? I spy with my little eye… the one on the lower right!
      How are you? The cooking show is in french, but there are plans to make on ein Engmish, perhaps, one day? As soon I get more news I will share. Wishing a lovely ‘Mimi’ chicken – thank you, I am honored! Bisous, Mimix

  6. Can’t wait to see coverage on your cooking show….any bits would be appreciated as I am in Australia and not sure of where or how far you will target your audience. Merci!

    1. Hello! For the moment the show is in French, all inspired from my blog. There are plans for an English version, soon… As soon as I have launch dates, I will share the news! Thanks for saying hi Gigi! Bonne journée, Mimix

  7. I wish you every success in your your projects. Your elegant manner, excellent writing, recipes and your husband’s photography have been a source of delight for my family and deserve to be more widely known.

    1. Bonjour! Oh thank you so much for your kind wishes – I feel so grateful! It’s a pleasure to work with my family and share our passion for life, family and food 🙂 Have a lovely day! Mimix

  8. Bonjour Mimi, love to hear stories from your childhood, both recipes looks and sound delicious, I am craving crabs now!
    Wish you a wonderful day and good luck with your beautiful project xx

    1. Bonjour Rowaida! Thank you! I hope you are enjoying London, you must be very excited as your daughter’s graduation is approaching! Wishing her all the best. Mimix

  9. I grew up eating fish almost every other day and some weeks, everyday! Crabs are one of my fav seafood. Serve it spicy, simple, gourmet, either way I love it! This dish sounds fantastic and I am in love at those hanging pots, the rustic kitchen and that clock!

    1. Bonjour Kankana! Lucky you – I can just imagine all the amazing seafood recipes you must have! There are so many exciting ways to cook crabs – I will always be in awe of them! Yes, that brocante in St Christoly always makes my day – it’s just like treasure hunting! Bonne journée, Mimix

  10. Hi Mimi, a gorgeous post as always. I love making crab-filled ravioli yum! But tell me how you prepare the salicornia please? we eat it raw or add it to sauces so far but yours look like a salad or such.
    Thanks & greetings from Germany, Karin

    1. Nonjour Karin! Thanks for dropping by! For the salicornia, I cook them in boiling unsalted water (they are very salty already!) for 3-4 minutes, then I drain and sauté them in a little bit of olive oil and one finely sliced garlic clove. They are still crunchy and add a lot of excitement to the table. Some people call them sea asparagus 🙂 Best, Mimix

  11. Hi mimi, this is just what I need today… those crab rolls seem perfect!
    And I may say your pics are just gorgeous too… do you make some exhibitions sometimes?
    Bravo to give us such energy here!!
    have a wonderful day, hope not too “wet”!
    L A U

    1. Bonjour Lau! Those crab rolls are easy and very delicious! They remind me of Shanghainese dishes I loved in my childhood. My husband is the photographer – he will be very happy to hear you asked about an exhibition 🙂 No plans yet, but who knows? Luckily, it’s not raining today? It’s a bit of a crazy fickle month of June, non? Best, Mimix

  12. You are a lovely writer of the culinary arts . I too love food as you do. Spider crabs are not local where I am from, but all kinds of crab are readily available. Your recipes inspire and your family life makes me feel sad with envy. You are an inspiration to life. Thank you , Biff

  13. Good morning,
    In Galicia we also love the crab, take them usually accompanied by a good wine Alvariño, (but here’s a saying that states that are at their best during the months leading an “r” (January, February, March, April, September , October, November, December), at the moment here are closed and we can not taste them).

  14. I love the broken clock idea…for those who live in a big city this is nearly a luxury idea, so that we can dream about a quiet countryside lifestyle through your blog and your stunning pictures.

    1. Bonjour! There’s definitely a different pace here in the country – it took me some time to adapt, and now I feel ‘in tune’ with time and the seasons. Some of those clocks still work, the one I love is broken – time just stands still 🙂 There’s something about brocante stores that makes me feel so serene, triggers my imagination to wonderful places – all those objects, all the history! Mimix

  15. I never imagined that spider crabs could look so pretty… Congratulations… these photos are so beautiful… almost… I don’t know.. I want to say Breugal-esque… if there is such a word… 🙂
    Have a wonderful week Mimi… xv

    1. Bonjour Vicki! Crabs are so beautiful – I have been ‘eyeing’ beautifully framed ones At Deyrolle in Paris for years 🙂 One day… Eating crabs is all about patience – the reward is so satisfying! Planning to cooki more crabs, Basque style (in their shells), Singaporian style with curry, vermicelli and spices… I am hungry all over again! Bonne journée, Mimix

  16. Your blog is a true work of art. I so hope that it will made into a book. The pictures are remarkable and I just can’t wait to try the crab rolls.
    I used to cook on a sailing boat and whenever I prepared crab I just couldn’t resist putting a little aside to eat as a simple salad with ginger. A marriage made in heaven.

    1. Bonjour Jenny! Thank you for such kind words! My husband is the photographer, I cook and write about it, and we both love food (so do the kids!), so I guess we are a good team 🙂 How enchanting to cook on a sailing boat – so fresh, so exciting! A book is on its way, something like Fall 2014? Wishing you a lovely day, Mimix

  17. Oh, good. You take the clock on the lower right –I’m swooning over the one on the upper right.
    I can’t wait to try the cabbage rolls this week, they sound delicious.
    I get TV5 here in NYC–hopefully they’ll air your show. Thank you for your exquisite site.
    It’s a feast for the senses.

    1. Haha! Let’s all get a clock then! I hope you will enjoy the cabbage rolls – so simple and I love the chinese vinegar and crab combination! Hopefully you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the show – if not I will share it later this fall! Bisous, Mimix

  18. J’ai découvert ce magnifique blog tout récemment, et je me suis rendu compte que je te connaissais, de (très) loin… via nos parents…
    Visiblement, vous avez eu raison de quitter Paris pour vous installer dans le Médoc. Ça donne envie !

    1. Bonjour! Quelle surprise alors, le monde est petit! Je viens de visiter ton blog superbe (tes illustrations sont très jolies!) – je vois que tu as été recemment en Islande. Mon mari est Islandais, nous sommes très liés à ce magnifique pays. J’allais souvent manger à Græenn Kostur pour de bons repas végétarien. Nous nous réjouissons de notre nouvelle vie dans le Médoc (presque 3 ans) – un vrai bijou semi-caché dans la France! A bientôt j’espère, Mimix

    1. Bonjour Marta! I can just imagine the amazing crabs in San Francisco – I find any meals linked with crabs and lobsters are often linked with a celebration, or a special treat! Wishing you a lovely end of the week! Mimix

  19. Ah, Mimi… that picture of the tomatos and crabs is absolutely stunning!! If I could just taste it… I’m it would taste as heavenly as it looks.

  20. What a beautiful post (as are they all)! I live in the Pacific NW in the US and my mouth waters just thinking about Dungeness crab–I think that I will have to try them in your cabbage roll recipe this weekend.

  21. Hi Mimi
    Thanks for the crab recipes ,its one of my favourite dishes ,I have just made some crab cakes with coriander, chilli ,spring onions ,egg and breadcrumbs served with mayonnaise and of course a glass of white wine

  22. Even if your show is in French, I want to watch it! I speak limited, but can understand it pretty well. Tell us where to find the episodes if they’re posted online somewhere! Happy Bastille Day!

  23. hey mimi! i found your blog a while ago, and i just love to cook your meals,especially when i am in france ( it just feels right, you know? ) they are absolutle great and everybody i cook it for loves it! and now: check this out!! there is one blog i absolutely adore, bond&co , and suddenly on page 13 i found a phoo of you! yes, everybody appear to love you and your rezepies! thank you so much for that! heres a link to your photo

  24. Am so exited to read your blog I used to spend summers with my aunt in countryside in France and your life reminds me so much of then! Love the pictures! And can’ wait to try some of the recepies! Please keep it up ! It’s delightful !

  25. Hi Mimi – I love this post as we loove crab but only ever make crab on toast or crab linguine. I’m half Basque and our seafood is amazing but I can’t recall crab dishes would love to see a post on this! Also I’m going to make the crab rolls but am struggling with what to serve it with!! You probably won’t see this comment now but if you do and have any inspiration for me I’d be so so grateful! I’m so looking forward to your show and book – I’m a huge fan especially since I’ve tried some of your delicious recipes.

Leave a Reply