This is a dish I often make in the summer but I really wanted to eat this sweet-seafood-feast - some 'sunshine food' after today's snowfall no doubt...
I have to say I love picking over crabs, but you can get dressed crab or just claws; I even recently sampled some frozen crab, which was good if you are in a hurry. The difference will be in the sauce if you don't have the shells to cook with, but a little more butter will help readdress the balance!
My crab was cooked by my fishmonger but this size would take 8 minutes. If preparing a crab, split the meat into white and brown meat. Crush the shells once the meat is removed, I use a rolling pin to crush the shells down. Remove the 'feathers' on the sides of the main body (the lungs) which are the only toxic part. A crab this size will feed 2 but can be stretched to 4 easily as it is so perfumed.
Over the heat, add in a chopped onion and 3 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste. Cook out the acidity for a few minutes and add in 2 or 3 tablespoons of Pernod (or any aniseed alcohol); then, fill with 3 cups or 720 ml of water. Further cook for about 20 -30 minutes and pass through a sieve - you want 2 cups or 480 ml of liquid (add water if needed) and after bringing to the heat, add a cup or 240 ml of cream. Reduce for 10 minutes so you have two cups of liquid. Season with salt and white pepper.
Whisk in 60 g or 1/4 cup of butter (more if it is your birthday...or Friday!)
CHOICES: the dark meat could now go in the sauce... but I have to mix the dark meat (and sometimes the crab roe) with mayonnaise and put it on little toasts before dinner with a cold glass of white, you choose!
Also, if you have no shell, the dark meat will help the richness of the sauce. If you are only using white meat, for the sauce use a good quality tin of Italian tomatoes and just one tablespoon of tomato paste and some fresh herbs like tarragon or chives. Reduce as the other sauce, adding the same amount of cream. You may need to add more butter to lift it a bit - it is not the same sauce but very pleasant.
Cook your pasta (linguine) and one minute before it is cooked, put into the awaiting (heated) sauce and let it finish cooking, add a few tablespoons of the pasta water if needed.
I serve the pasta with the crab on top, not heated as it warms naturally - you may want to mix it in but it is nice to see the crab.