Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to Cook & Clean Live Dungeness Crab - Before they Kill You!

MMMmmmm... CRAB.  Fresh Live San Francisco Crab.... The Bestest Crab EVER!  Once you have REAL fresh crab, you will NEVER buy precooked store bought crab AGAIN!  I promise. I haven't done my New England Sea-foodie Tour Yet....But if you live near the Pacific coast, you can ask around to find where your crab boats hang out to sell their daily catches.  Out here in San Francisco, we drive down Highway 1 to Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay - near where the famous Maverick's World Surfing Competition happens!  

Yea, it's a total blast living on the coast-side of San Francisco!!!!!  The waves here are big and the weather is nice most of the time.  Bring a cooler with you to the docks to make for easy crab transport. On your way back to the car, make sure to stop by the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company to try there new seasonal beers.... I know the brewers and they totally know what they are doing! 

Once you get them home, check the crab to make sure it is alive. They should be moving and swearing profanities at you. Rinse under water. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Place the crabs (either alive or recently killed) in boiling, salted water and cover the pot. (Patrica McGregor aka the Marine Biologist "Crab Whisperer" in the film below) recommends picking them up from the back is the safest. There should be enough water so that the crab is completely submerged, plus an additional 4 or 5 inches on top of that. When it's fully boiling put in the crab.

You may hear the crab "shrieking" and think it is in pain. What you're hearing is the air escaping from its shell. Use about half a cup of salt per gallon of water. You may also add some Old Bay Seasoning to the pot. Cook for about 15 minutes; 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones, up to 20 minutes for large ones.

When cooking live crab, you can put it in the freezer for half an hour beforehand so that it moves more slowly and is easier to handle when placing in the pot. Some people also feel this is a more humane method. They say the cold puts them into a dormant state and then they're not fully conscious when they're boiled. 

Obviously, the crab will be hot. So, if you want to serve it warm, you’ll need to wear rubber gloves to clean it. Otherwise, put the crab in a bowl of ice water for several minutes and then drain before cleaning. To remove the back, hold the base of the crab with one hand and pull the shell away from the body with the other hand. Turn the crab over and pull on the triangular-shaped section and lift it away. Turn the crab again and gently scrape away the gills on either side with your thumb or a spoon.

Throw away the intestine, which runs down the center of the back. Most people wash away the "crab butter" (the yellow, mushy stuff in the cavity). But, some consider these organs a delicacy and there are recipes that call for them. So, set them aside if you like.

Twist off the legs. Rinse the rest of the body under cold water and break it in half. Crack the legs with a mallet. Dig out the meat with forks or picks or however you can get to it. Eating crab is a messy affair, so just dig in and enjoy. Crab meat is typically served with lemon wedges and melted butter. But, of course, there are many sauces and recipes you can experiment with. Butter is the best! Here's my first home-made horror short film:

It may not always be safe to have your friends over for a crab feast.....

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