Although I have used prawns, crabs, and scallops in this recipe, you can easily substitute lobster, mussels (which you can cook in a deep-fry basket on top of the grill), razor clams, oysters, and any other shellfish. Cooking them in the shell preserves all the juices, and as they cook, the smoke from the wood or charcoal gives the shellfish a wonderful taste. Save the shrimp shells for making essence or soup.
Divide the crabs in half by holding the claw and legs on each side of the crab in 1 hand and smashing the underside of the crab against the edge of a table or sink. Then twist the 2 sides in alternate directions, pulling the body away from the top shell. Clean out the body parts, removing the gills and other debris. Scoop the coral from the shell and save for crab butter, if you wish. Discard the shell. Crack the claws and legs with a cracker or the flat of a heavy knife, being careful to keep the pieces intact. If you are using claws only, crack them and the knuckles.
Thread 4 skewers with 4 shrimp each. Thread another 4 skewers with 2 scallops each.
Mix the garlic, thyme, fennel, saffron, oil, and salt and pepper together. Brush the marinade over all the shellfish and let marinate for 1 hour, turning the shellfish several times.
Mix the cumin and mayonnaise together and let sit 1 hour for the flavors to develop.
Heat the grill or broiler.
Put the crab on the grill and cook 3 minutes. Turn the crab over and put on the shrimp and scallops. Grill them just until cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side, and the crab 6 to 8 minutes total.
Spoon the cumin mayonnaise and the tomatillo salsa in little ramekins and put 1 of each on 4 warm plates. Put the shellfish on the plates and serve immediately. Pass lemon wedges and hot, damp napkins.
© 1986 Jeremiah Tower. All rights reserved.