Friday, June 15, 2012

Fresh Dungeness Crab (steamed) and Garlic Butter

If you are lucky enough to live in, or visit an area where you can go crabbing for Dungeness crab. Do it.  Plain and simple.
Fresh dungeness crab is some of the sweetest most tender crab you will probably ever eat.

Growing up my family went crabbing at the beach every weekend in the summer, it was something that I loved, and holds a lot of good memories for me.  My dad used to let me "help" him prepare his pots, he used the big "ring" pots that you toss into the ocean and then hand pull back out.  Since this was in the days before the big fancy metal ones it made it easy and fun for me to help him tie the bait on and get his boat ready.
Yes, that is a pic of 3 yr old me in and my dad getting ready to go crabbing.

 This year my husband and I decided it was time to start taking the kids crabbing, and clamming.  So I took them back to the very beach that I grew up doing the very same thing.... except we used the much smaller traps that snap shut and don't require a boat or arm muscles as big as hard as a rock (though I'm sure if you crab that way long enough they just might become that hard).  I am sure that my kids didn't mind we used different traps, and the memories will be just as sweet.
Sunrise shows the "wave" patterns on the sand from the night before....
 As the sun rose my son and I checked out the beach for a nice place to "set up camp" and I took some pictures along the way...

  My son learning to clam
My daughter not amused that she found a snail in the sand
Sandcastles were more the girls style... 
Now I have to tell you a little story about this crab... 
This crab went for a little walk on the beach early yesterday morning... just so happens my husband and son were also going on a walk on that same beach on their way to find some good clamming spots.  Unlucky for this crab it didn't feel like scuttling back into the water very fast and my husband was able to stop his path with the clamming shovel and just pick him up.  Score crab-0 guys-1

By the end of the day my husband caught another keeper, and I actually caught the largest crab of the day on my first trap.  Go me! The kids loved it and want to go again soon... which we probably will... once we are no longer lobsters ourselves...

Now growing up we usually put the crabs in a pot of sea water and then boiled them like that.  In more recent years we've had a hard time keeping a flame that can keep a flame hot enough long enough without smoking us out.  So we've opted to take them home and steam them there.  But if you get the chance, its always best cooked in the sea water, something about it gives them a better flavor than any recipe I've ever tried since. 
To make things easier for travel home, DONT put them in water unless you plan on airating the water with a pump or changing their water ever 20-30 minutes with sea water, fresh water will kill them (and not in humane way either).  Crabs breathe air. Out of water they can stay alive for 12-18 hours. They will calm down if you place them on their back.

Fresh Steamed Dungeness Crab

1 cup vinegar
2 cups beer (or water)
2 tablespoons sea salt
seasonings (onion, garlic, etc)

1. Pour vinegar, beer and salt into bottom of a very large pot add steamer tray (the lowest point of the tray should not touch the water) and heat til boiling.
2. While the steamer is heating up put the crabs either in the fridge for 10 minutes or so, this will put them into a "hibernative state" so that they fall asleep and are no longer "pinchy."  It will also make it so that they pull their legs in, making it easier to place in your pot.
3. Once the beer/vinegar mixture is boiling, add crabs on your steamer tray, pour seasonings on top of crabs and steam.

2 lb crabs should cook around 15 minutes.
lower weight crabs cook for less (somewhere between 7-9 minutes)

Cooked crabs should be a bright orangey-red

4. Place crabs into ice bath to stop cooking (preferred). This will make your crab cold.  If you dont want cold crab, prepare to burn your hands cleaning them, or kill them before you cook them by placing into boiling water for 30 seconds, then clean them as instructed and then steam.  Whatever makes you happiest.
5. Clean your crab.  Every part of the crab is edible except for two parts, the shell, and the lungs (which are toxic).  Most people prefer to eat just the legs and the meat just inside the body because that's what is served at restaurants. If you want to broaden your pallet, try some of the other pieces, me I stick to the regular crab meat.
Picture from - they are using a female crab which is ILLEGAL to keep in most states.
 The lungs are feathery cones that line the side of the body. It is important to remove them all and throw them away.

Below is a video on how to clean a crab.

Once you have a clean crab serve with garlic butter and enjoy!

Garlic Butter

1 stick butter
4-8 cloves of garlic, (whole, sliced or diced)

Place butter and garlic in a small sauce pan. Heat on medium heat until melted, pour into containers for service.

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