Marylanders may have blue crab feasts, but here in the San Francisco Bay Area, our Dungeness crabs are just as worthy of a feast (no matter where you live). Image source: Flickr CC user Ruth L
In the warm days of summer, crab feeds are an East Coast tradition. Pounds of blue crabs are boiled with a healthy dose of Old Bay seasoning and dumped out onto picnic tables covered with butcher paper as hungry crowds descend on the mass of crustaceans armed with wooden mallets, melted butter or vinegar, and plenty of cold beer. It’s about as good as it gets.
But there’s no reason the East Coast should have all the fun. In the San Francisco Bay Area we have the delicious and abundant Dungeness crab, Northern California’s crabby claim to fame.
The key, of course, is to get the best, freshest and most sustainable crabs you can find.
Ordering Your Dungeness Crabs
As good as Dungeness is, preparing, cooking, and cracking them is labor intensive. A good seafood supplier will deliver your crabs to your door, and will offer the option to ship your crab cracked and cleaned. Especially for Dungeness crabs--which have harder shells and are more difficult to open than blue crabs--cracked and cleaned is a good option to cut down on labor and clean-up.
While the Dungeness season is about over here on the West Coast, Dungeness freeze quite well, and a supplier of high-quality seafood can ship your crab sectioned and flash-frozen, so you can have a crab feed anytime. Seafood delivery companies can also send crab anywhere in the U.S., so you can have your crab feed in the San Francisco Bay Area or in New York City!
Plan on about two pounds of crab--that’s about one large crab--per person at your feast. A quality Dungeness crab will feel heavy for its size and the shell will be a deep violet-purple. If you order them whole, notice that the legs are pulled in tight against the body. All these factors are signs of freshness, which is especially important for a delicate seafood like crab.
Serving Your Crab Feast
To defrost and cook a whole uncooked crab, boil it in plenty of salted water for 20-30 minutes depending on size. For cooked crabs, boil in salted water for about 10 minutes, or just until heated through. It’s important to salt the water so as not to draw out the crab’s delicious flavor into the water. As a rule of thumb, for every gallon of water use half a cup of kosher salt.
Since you’ve got the crab covered, all you’ll need is hot garlic bread, melted butter, and cocktail sauce or vinegar (if you want an authentic MD crab feast feel). Add a Caesar salad and a racy Sauvignon Blanc and you’re ready for your crab feed.
If you happen to have any leftover crab (unlikely, but possible), don’t let it sit! Make crab cakes!
The very best thing to do is make the crab cakes for breakfast the next morning. Just add a raw beaten egg, fine breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and perhaps a handful of chopped Italian parsley. Gently mix it all together into a loose patty and fry the cakes in butter until golden brown. Serve with a squeeze of lemon. How’s that for leftovers?
These days you’ll find Dungeness crab all over the U.S., but no one knows how to handle it better DailyFreshFish.com. We’re based in the San Francisco Bay Area, so we know Dungeness, and we know how to keep it as sweet and flavorful as possible, whether it’s fresh or frozen. And that’s something worth celebrating any time of the year.