Dirty Work: Mastering the Art of Spicy Crab with Margot Henderson

"This dish is inspired by a Sri Lankan dish. Fergus and I used to cook this together at French House.”

by Munchies Staff
May 12 2016, 4:00pm
Margot dirty work speaking

All photos by Alex Swerdloff
Welcome back to Dirty Work, our new series of dispatches from the MUNCHIES Garden. We're inviting chefs, bartenders, and personalities in the world of food and drink to explore our edible playground and make whatever the hell inspires them with our rooftop produce. In the latest installment, legendary British chef Margot Henderson gets her crab on in the most spectacular of ways.

"So, does Rupert Murdoch pop into the garden often?" We've only been in the MUNCHIES test kitchen for a few minutes when Margot Henderson sardonically asks that question about the VICE investor as she finishes tying her apron with a faint grin.

It's precisely this same unabashed and straightforward approach that has slowly but surely propelled Henderson to the upper echelons of England's gastronomic scene. Margot Henderson is widely recognized as the wife and culinary partner of Fergus—the patron saint of nose-to-tail cooking—but you'd be a damn fool to think for even a second that she isn't a titan unto herself. Recently, she and her head chef, Anna Tobias, were in town for a dinner at The Four Horsemen and stopped by the MUNCHIES Garden to gather a few ingredients and make us one hell of a killer dish.

RECIPE: Crab with Chives, Spring Onions, Mint, and Ginger

Henderson began by foraging in our rooftop garden. It might have been only April in Brooklyn, but she found a bounty of chives, tarragon, and spring onion.

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Margot dirty work picking plant

Throughout the various iterations of her career, Henderson has been known for her no-fuss approach toward simple British classics. As she has remarked to us in the past, "Generally cooked slowly in a very straightforward way, British food's plainness is its brilliance."

Margot dirty work holding up

That said, the crab dish she made for us happens to have a sophisticated flavor profile and may, she hinted, be a variation on a dish her husband is famous for, Deviled Crab, which appeared in his cult cookbook, The Complete Nose to Tail. "I think this might be the only dish that Fergus has ever used coriander in in his life," she told us. But, as ever, Henderson puts her own stamp on her food and made full use of what our early spring garden had to offer.

Margot dirty work tasting plant

When we headed back into the kitchen, Henderson, a native New Zealander, explained, "This dish is inspired by a Sri Lankan dish. Fergus and I used to cook this together at French House." The duo first met acclaim after opening The French House Dining Room back in 1992.

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Henderson combined her fresh produce in a large pot to which she added ginger and cilantro, just to make things a little more intriguing.

Margot Dirty works pot color corrected
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The chef and mother of three has since garnered worldwide acclaim for her work at Rochelle Canteen, the Shoreditch, London restaurant that is famously hard to find. Henderson spent years trying to balance running a kitchen, motherhood, and then a newfound career in catering. She is also an example of a woman who has managed to run a restaurant kitchen while raising a family; in other words, she sports her PolkaPants with pride and supports other women who want to ascend the ranks of professional cooking

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She then threw a bunch of soft-shell crabs in the pot and doused the whole thing with some lovely white wine.

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But why stop there? One type of crab is great, but three—no, make that four—is even better. Henderson added jumbo lump crab meat, claw crab meat, and that Florida favorite, stone crab claws. Henderson says the stone crabs, which are, of course served, in their shells, add something special to the dish: "It's good to have the stone crabs in the dish to give it structure and pick at it"

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Just a few minutes later—yes, it was as easy as that—the dish was ready. Needless to say, it was spectacular—redolent of onions and herbs, but crabbier than your aunt's pension for jumbo lump crabtinis.

Margot Dirty works finished dish

The stone crabs were most definitely worth the work: "This recipe is great with the stone crab because the guests get some work in as they eat the dish by cracking the shells."

Margot dirty work posing with bag
Tagged:
Munchies
Food
crab
Margot Henderson
Dirty Work
Eat
munchies garden
soft shell crab
chives
spring onions
stone crabs