Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Making 'Silver Linings Playbook' crabby snacks and homemades

Jacki Weaver, who plays the long-suffering mother and even longer-suffering wife in Silver Linings Playbook, delivered the film's most memorable line in impeccable Philadelphian: "I'm making crabby snacks and homemades!"

I'm 100 percent behind Weaver's nomination for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Even if the role of the peacemaking matriarch was criminally underwritten, Weaver imbued it with humanity.

(We'll find out what the voting members of the motion picture academies think at 7 p.m. Sunday during the Oscars on ABC, WFTS-Ch. 28.)

Crabby snacks and homemades should be at the top of discerning Oscar fans' party menus this year. But those of us who were not raised in Philly must first make a determination: What are crabby snacks and homemades?

Crabby snacks are, to quote the Matthew Quick novel from which Silver Linings Playbook was adapted, "buttered crab meat and orange cheese on English muffins." Homemades are homemade egg pasta. The juxtaposition of these two recipes in Silver Linings Playbook's script echoes the tonal confusion of the film: Where crabby snacks are lowbrow, convenient and highly processed, homemades are old-world, labor intensive and made from scratch. Serving them together makes no sense. And yet here we are.

Crabby snacks sometimes go by other names, like crab bites, crabby bites, or simply crabbies. When I was growing up, they were a staple at my aunt and uncle's annual holiday party, where they were known as crab canapes. The core ingredients of crabby snacks — softened butter, mayonnaise, canned crab meat, and (crucially) Kraft Old English cheese spread — are rather unappetizing when mixed together.

Some recipes for crabby snacks call for parsley or garnishes like tomato and scallions, but such intruders spoil the unnatural purity of the appetizer.

Making pasta from scratch requires another kind of perseverance. First, you must break eggs into a well of flour and beat them without letting them erupt over the sides of the flour like an elementary-school baking-soda volcano. Then you must knead the pasta dough, which is quite a bit stiffer and less pliable than bread dough. It takes a lot of kneading to bring it together into a smooth ball. Don't despair; it will get there eventually.

Crab-coated English muffins should be frozen for at least half an hour to make them more manageable before you cut them into canapes, but you can keep them in the freezer for even longer than that before you broil them. The dough also needs about half an hour resting time before you roll it out. After cutting the pasta, you can spread the strands on baking sheets and let them dry at room temperature for up to a few hours. The longer you let them dry, the longer they'll need to cook — but you're looking at 10 minutes, tops. The flexibility of both recipes leave plenty of time to plan and execute the rest of your Oscar menu, including sauce for the homemades — if you don't go the straight butter-and-Parmesan route, may I suggest vodka sauce or pesto?

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