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Although crabs are available year round in coastal areas, their consumption is most associated with the summer, undoubtedly from the summer tourist migration to the shores.
King and snow crabs come from the north Pacific and are prized for their legs. Unless you live in Alaska, these are always shipped and sold frozen.
Dungeness crabs are found on the Pacific coast, while stone crabs hail from Florida waters. Along the eastern seaboard, it is the blue crab that reigns supreme.
Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs that have shed their outer shell during the process of molting. In the few days before the new shell hardens, they are consumable, “shell” and all.
Soft-shell crabs are available April through September with the peak being in June and July.
Blue crabmeat is sold frozen, canned and fresh. The fresh obviously tastes the best, but I’ll use the canned when I can’t find it.
Lump meat is the most expensive and is comprised of the larger pieces of meat from the body while the flaked is the smaller pieces. Always pick through your crabmeat to remove the bits of shell that will inevitably be lurking in it.
Storage and handling
Blue Crab is available fresh and pasteurized in the following forms: lump, backfin, special, claw and cocktail claw.
Pasteurized blue crabmeat in unopened containers can be stored up to six months in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Once opened, use within three days.
Fresh blue crab meat should be stored on ice in the coldest part of your refrigerator and used within seven to 10 days.
Crabs are nutritious, low in fat, and high in protein. Three and one half ounces of crabmeat contains 20 grams of protein, one gram of fat, (some of which is the desirable omega-3 fatty acids), Vitamins B1, B2, and B6, selenium, iron, potassium and zinc.
Savory Crab Cake
with Remoulade Sauce
2 Tbsps. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon or Creole mustard
1/4 tsp. Creole seasoning
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. finely chopped green onion
1 tsp. finely minced red bell pepper, optional
1/2 lb. crabmeat
1/2 cup fresh fine bread crumbs
Combine mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, and seasonings; set aside.
Drain crabmeat; gently squeeze to get as much of the liquid out as possible. Put crabmeat in a bowl. With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in mayonnaise mixture breadcrumbs, just until blended. Shape into 4 crab cakes, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
Heat clarified butter or oil over medium heat. Fry crab cakes for about 5 minutes on each side, carefully turning only once. Serve with lemon wedges and Remoulade sauce. Makes 4 crab cakes.
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbsps. finely chopped green onions, white and green parts
2 Tbsps. finely chopped sweet pickles
Dash garlic powder
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon or Creole mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish (optional)
Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least one hour to blend flavors and chill. Makes about 1 cup sauce. Good with crab cakes, fish, fried seafood, etc.
This recipe is delicious but might be too barbaric for some.
6 soft-shell crabs
Flour as needed
Olive oil as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
Zest from 2 lemons
The crabs should be alive and must be cleaned first. That means taking kitchen shears and cutting away the eyes and mouth. Then you must pull back and remove the top shell to expose the gills so they can be removed. Finally, you must pull away and remove the bottom tail flap, known as the apron.
These steps are done to remove the parts that are inedible or are bitter and will impart unwanted flavors.
Make the gremolata by combining the parsley, garlic and lemon zest. Dredge the crabs in flour and saut in olive oil over medium heat for three minutes on each side. Shake the pan to prevent sticking and be careful not to burn the flour. Remove and drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with the gremolata to serve.
2 Tbsps. butter
2 heaping Tbsp. flour
3/4 cup milk, divided
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 heaping Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 slice bread, cubed, crust removed
1/2 lb. crabmeat
In a medium pot, melt butter; stir in flour. Gradually add 1/2-cup milk, stirring. Add salt, mustard, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce; cook until thickened. Cool. Add mayonnaise to sauce.
In a small bowl, moisten bread with remaining milk; blend well. Add crabmeat and mix well. Combine crab mixture with sauce; spoon into 4 ramekins. Bake at 350-degrees for 15 minutes; broil for 2 minutes. Serve with toast points.
Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.