Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

This Jan. 12, 2017 photo shows crab bisque in Coronado, Calif. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d'Arabian. (Melissa d'Arabian via AP) CAMA101
This Jan. 12, 2017 photo shows crab bisque in Coronado, Calif. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d'Arabian. (Melissa d'Arabian via AP) CAMA101
Published February 15 2018

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs.

They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentally, so a heads-up if you are watching salt), but only a couple of grams of fat. Which gives you a little celebratory wiggle room to add a little lemon butter. (Mix 1 tablespoon of melted butter with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.)

But all this goodness does come at a price. Literally, crab legs are pricey. So my strategy is to buy them for a date night with my husband instead of going out to dinner. We can load up Alaskan king crab legs for less than the cost of one meal at a moderate restaurant.

My favorite way to eat them is simple: steamed and then cracked open and dunked in my lemony butter. The succulent sweet meat will absolutely elevate your macaroni and cheese, tacos or salads, so feel free to experiment in recipes and swap out fish or shrimp for crab. But, I’m a purist and love that unmistakable flavor of Alaskan crab front and center, not diluted in other ingredients.

But here is the secret I want to tell you about today: After you’ve enjoyed that restaurant-quality meal at home, keep those shells. You can get a whole second crab dish from that one purchase by making crab bisque the next day. (Or, stick the shells in a freezer bag and freeze them for a couple of weeks if you want to space out the crab meals.) Tossing the shells in a hot oven for just a couple of minutes brings out a roasty-crab aroma that will create quick depth of flavor for a speedy homemade stock, even if you don’t have a ton of shells. (Tip: You can also boost the flavor by adding a little bottle clam juice to your stock.)

The stock can then be added to a simple roux, a little sherry and a bit of low-fat evaporated milk for a creamy, satisfying soup that tastes fattier and more expensive than it is.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."

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