Over the past year and a half I have featured many recipes using seafood. The tastes of the sea are endless and not wanting to be shellfish I thought a column highlighting crabs may be fun.
There are literally thousands of species of crabs in the deep blue sea and they all have delicious white sweet meat. Among the favorites in the US are snow crab, king crab, Dungeness, stone and blue crab. All crab sold in this country is either sold live or cooked and frozen.
Blue crabs, found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts is very common. When purchased, blues are commonly sold in cans and marketed as lump crab meat. This is the stuff you want. Great on salads, in stir-fry or crab cakes.
Soft-shell crab is a seasonal treat that is featured mainly on restaurant menus. The soft-shell crab is actually blue crab that has shed their shells. Cleaning soft-shell crabs can be tedious and you will almost always find the babies on the menu either deep-fried or grilled. If you are dining along the coast and the soft-shell crab is fresh, order a deep-fried soft-shell crab sandwich. It’s sea-sational.
On the West Coast the chicken of the sea is not tuna but Dungeness crab. Always sold cooked and frozen, Dungeness is fantastic served cold or steamed whole. Dungeness crabs have a sweet taste that is very close to lobster.
In Florida, stone crab claws are most often again found on a coastal restaurant menu as an appetizer. Deep-fried stone crab claws, in my humble restaurant experience are a rip-off. In both cooking and eating them, I have found they are small, and although sweet tasting, yield very little meat. A mess of claws served on a wilted hunk of lettuce with a side of dipping sauce will set you back ten bucks or so. Order the mozzarella cheese sticks instead.
Finally, there is the king crab and snow crab harvested in the frigid waters of Alaska.
These guys are truly the deadliest catch of crab and again are sold cooked and frozen. King crabs can grow to be about twenty pounds and can run you $18-20 a pound. Snow crab legs are smaller but just as delicious at only about $6-8 per pound. But both are featured in our recipe of the day, a good old-fashioned crab boil that is a real feast.
2-3 Lbs. Crab Legs
A Big Giant Pot of Water, (I always throw in a bottle of beer to the water. The beer, not the bottle.)
4-6 Ears of Corn, Shucked
1 Lb. New Potatoes
2 Whole Lemons, Halved
1 Onion, Peeled and Halved
2 Tbs. Crab Boil
1 Bay Leaf
2-3 Tbs. Old Bay Seasoning
Sea Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Sherry
Get the water boiling and add the lemons, onion, crab boil, bay leaf and seasonings. When at a rolling boil, turn the heat down to medium and add the corn. Cook for 10 minutes and add the potatoes. Cook another 10 minutes and add the crab legs. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Do not over boil them. They are already cooked and the meat will get tough and the shells harder to break cleanly if you over cook them. Some people add sausage and/or eggs to hard boil in the recipe. Use your imagination.
A note about fake crab. Sold in little packages in the frozen food section, there is nothing wrong with imitation processed crab meat, except that it’s not crab. It is actually Pacific Pollock that has been dyed to look like crab meat. Beware of restaurants that try and pawn off their crab cakes that use “Surimi” or fake crab meat as the main ingredient.
I’m not going to do any crab jokes today, you’ve heard them all, so pull on a bib, grab your cocktail fork and get cracking.