Thursday, December 22, 2016

Fresh Dungeness Crab Feast Holiday Dinner Recipe!


Every year my birthday happens around the time you put up your Christmas tree in December.  It’s usually the coldest and wettest days of the year here in San Francisco, but to make up for all of the not so fun weather there is the opening of live Dungeness Crab Season!  

Once you have experienced a real fresh Dungeness Crab dinner, you will never be the same!  I love it so much, I make it an annual birthday Crab Feast Birthday Celebration. 

You can go down to the Pier in San Francisco and get the best crab ever! I take a big cooler on wheels and go down to San Pedro Point in Half Moon Bay and buy the biggest live crabs I can find right from the crab boats on the docks.  This year they were $4.99 per pound.  They came out to be $10 - $11.00 each.  Huge beauties. So good!  They were better than ever this year.  

Over the years, I will add something new to my crab feast serving set-up.  It’s hard to believe it, but I have many crab butter warmer sets now. On top of white linen tablecloths, I cover the feasting table with newspapers. Big serving plates, side plates for hot hand towels. I fill big bowls full of cracked crab all along the center of the table and then have medium sized empty bowls for shells.  It’s a serious production that is well worth the investment.

I ask my guests to bring bubbly and wine.  I make some side dishes, but the crab is so sweet and rich, you really don’t need much for side dishes, a token casserole and salad, French bread with butter is perfect.

Many folks out here in the San Francisco bay area make it a Christmas feast main course every year as well.  

Fresh Hot San Francisco Style Dungeness Crab!
For the crab:
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 (2-pound) whole live Dungeness crab (Off the boat, if you can get them)
For serving:
Sliced fresh lemon
Warm melted salted butter

COOKING MUSIC SELECTION: Cocoa Tea- "Crab Dem" + Dub Dem

Special equipment: Big pot with a fitted lid and a burner big and hot enough to make a rapid boil in.

Fresh live crab should be purchased and cooked the same day—the crabs can only be stored in the refrigerator for a few hours once taken out of their holding tanks. 

The hardest part of cooking live crab, is the killing them part.  I find that it is most humane to keep them cold and wet for the shortest amount of time and then, make it quick, by putting them directly into rapid boiling water.
If you’re cooking more than one crab at a time, calculate the average weight by taking the total weight of the crabs and dividing by the number of crabs you have. Use this average weight to determine your total boiling time, about 7 to 8 minutes per pound. And be sure to use an extra-large pot with a tight-fitting lid.

Fill a large pot with 1 inch of water, crab boil seasoning and stir in the salt. (Be sure your pot has a tight fitting lid.) Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Wearing thick gloves, carefully pick up the live crab, grasping it from behind and place it into the boiling water. Cover and return the water to a full boil, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium high and steam until the crab is cooked through, about 15 minutes more.  Using tongs, remove the crab to a colander and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle.

Place the crab belly side up on a cutting board with the face closest to you. Using your hands or the tip of a knife, lift the triangular piece of shell at the tail of the crab (the apron), break it off, and discard. Pick up the crab with your hands, place a thumb in the hole where the apron was, and pull in one motion to remove the top shell (the carapace) from the rest of the body. Discard the carapace.

Place the crab belly side down on the cutting board with the tail closest to you. Remove and discard the soft, pointy gills from the body. Break off and discard the mouthpiece (the mandibles). Pull away any loose fragments from the body and discard. Rinse away any viscera under cold water. It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it.

Place the crab on the cutting board back side up and cut in half from face to tail through the middle of the body. If desired, cut the crab into smaller pieces by slicing between the legs, making sure to cut through the body. I like to sprinkle the hot crab piled into big bowls with Old Bay Seasoning right before serving.
To extract the meat, use seafood crackers or small hammers to crack open the claws, legs, and body. Serve with melted butter and fresh baked San Francisco crusty French bread. THE BEST EVER!

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