Dungeness Crab Salad with Fresh Avocado and Gazpacho Andalouse Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Lee Knaz

Get this recipe and more with the official MasterChef Cookbook

"This was my first Mystery Box win, and I was pretty surprised that the judges picked it," says Lee. "I'd never cooked a live crab before. This dish was a real turning point in the competition for me. Prior to this, I had a habit of coming in under the radar. When Joe tasted the sweet crab salad floating in a pool of refreshing gazpacho, he slammed the table and said, 'BAM! Now you're talking. The flavors are action on your palate! Clean, focused-it's a first-rate dish.' To hear the judges tell me this was among the best dishes they'd tasted in the competition was just amazing."

If cooking fresh or live whole crabs is not your thing, feel free to substitute lump crabmeat. But whatever you do, do not use that imitation stuff.


For the crab salad

  • 1 (2-pound) live Dungeness crab or 1/2 pound lump crabmeat, picked through for shells
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 garlic head, halved
  • 1 carrot, cut into chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
  • 2 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely diced
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, ends trimmed, finely chopped, tips reserved
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 ripe Hass avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch slices for garnish

For the gazpacho

  • 2 large vine-ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 English cucumber, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


To make the crab salad:

  1. If using live crab, put it in the freezer for 20 minutes before cooking so that it is easier to handle. Put a large pot of well-salted water over medium-high heat. Add the aromatics-the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, parsley, basil, wine, and peppercorns. Bring the water to a rolling boil and carefully submerge the crab in the water. Cover the pot to bring the water quickly back up to a boil. Cook the crab for 12 to 15 minutes. The shell should turn bright red.

  2. Put the crab in a bowl of ice water for several minutes to cool completely. Clean and crack the crab.

  3. Combine the shallot, mustard and fennel seeds, prosciutto, apple, asparagus, cucumber, oil, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl. Add the crab body meat, about 1 1/2 cups. Reserve the claw meat for garnish. Gently fold the ingredients together, taking care not to break up the crabmeat too much. Season with salt and pepper.

  4. Set aside in the refrigerator to marinate for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the gazpacho.

To make the gazpacho:

  1. Combine the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, bell pepper, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper in a blender. Puree until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil. Strain the gazpacho through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing the solids with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.

  2. To serve, set a 3-inch ring mold in the center of a shallow bowl or plate. Fill the ring with the crab salad, pressing down gently with the back of a spoon to pack. Ladle a pool of the gazpacho around the ring to cover the bowl. Carefully remove the ring. Repeat with the 3 remaining servings. Garnish the crab salad with whole claw meat, asparagus tips, and a few slices of avocado. Drizzle the plate with oil and season with salt and pepper before serving.

Master the Basics:

Seeding a Tomato

The seeds of a tomato can sometimes lend a bitter taste to a dish and can actually add more water to a recipe than necessary. Removing the seeds will lead to not only a better taste but also a more even texture in your dish.

Cut the tomato in half at the equator (crosswise). Turn the tomato cut side down and gently squeeze out the seeds or push them out with your fingers. Chop or slice seeded tomatoes as desired.

Toasting Spices

When spices are toasted, their flavors intensify, adding a deeper dimension to your food.

Put spices in a dry skillet and place over medium-low heat. Toast for just a minute or two to release the fragrant oils, shaking the pan so the spices don't scorch.

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Dungeness Crab Salad with Fresh Avocado and Gazpacho Andalouse Sauce