In a medium heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the onions and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic, cumin, and paprika and cook for 2 minutes more, until the aroma is released. Add the tomatoes, pimentos, bay leaf, vinegar, Tabasco, sherry, clam juice and salt to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until thickened and saucy. Add the crab meat and cook for another 6 minutes, then remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. Cover and set aside at the back of the stove while you cook the cornmeal. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the cornmeal, water, oil, and salt. Mix together well and place the pan over mediumhigh heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes over very low heat, removing the lid to thoroughly stir the mixture every 2 or 3 minutes. When the cornmeal has thickened, season it generously with pepper. Remove the bay leaf from the sauce and gently reheat it if necessary. Ladle the cornmeal into shallow heated bowls and top with a generous ladleful of the crab sauce. Or if desired, mix the two together thoroughly before serving.
Yield: 6 servings
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