Once you get the over the heeby jeebies of picking up a live crab, the rest is simple. Easy peasy!
I get my crabs (man, that sounds wrong) off the docks in Half Moon Bay from the fishermen that bring it in everyday. They sell live crabs for around $5 /lb. which is twice the ol’ wholesale prices of yesteryear, but still lower than what you will pay in most markets. Expect to pay around $10 to $12 per crab.
A word of advice about buying crab off the docks: haggling with the fishermen over their prices unless you are going to do some serious buying in large quantities is just not worth it. They are selling it at the lowest prices they can right now. And if they go lower for you they run the risk of getting into trouble with their fellow fisherman and there have been some serious consequences for this. Wholesale crab prices are set in November and they stay set for the most part, throughout the season.
This year I’ve heard mixed reports on the Dungeness crabs but all that I’ve tasted have been sweet and delicious. A little on the small side overall, but still incredible. The crab season runs from November through June, but majority of big fat ones are caught in Winter, just so you know…
I fill a big pot with salted water, add my spices, bring to a boil and then carefully add crab one by one making sure the water comes back to a boil after each one. I cook them for 5-6 minutes. Most recipes say 10 minutes, but this is overkill. I take them out, drain them and let them cool a little before cracking and eating. Sometimes I spread the crab butter on toast – yum!
I know I’ve said this a million times, but Dungeness crab is just one of those items I think is good just the way it is. Drawn Meyer lemon butter on the side is a nice addition along with some real Sourdough and a fresh green salad. Does it get any better? Okay, some steamed artichokes too maybe…
- 3-6 fresh Dungeness crabs, alive
- 1-2 large pots of boiling salted water, enough water to submerge crabs completely
- 4 bay leaves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons fennel seed
- 4 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
- 4 lemons, halved
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 3 tablespoons smoked Hungarian paprika
- 1 bunch parsley, stems only
- 3 stalks celery, chopped coarsley
- 2 yellow onions, halved
The water that the crab is boiled in should be salty like the sea.
Add the rest of the ingredient (minus crab) to the pot and let simmer for 20 minutes. Taste. If the broth tastes good, the crab will taste even better. Adjust seasoning.
Once the broth is boiling, take the crab from the back so that the pincers don't get ya, and carefully lower it into pot. Put the lid over immediately so there's no escape. Wait for 20 seconds or so before adding the next crab. It's important that the broth back come up to a boil between each crab dunk.
Cook for 5-6 minutes. The crabs will turn bright red. Remove from broth and let cool for another 5 minutes before butchering.
To butcher: twist legs off from body at the base, set aside. Pull the back lid up and off of the body. Scrape out gills and throw away. Scrape out grey-ish green crab butter and reserve or toss (can be eaten!), break body into two pieces down the center – these are the 'knuckles' and you will see why they are called that when you split the body apart.
Serve with crab crackers to break shells, or if you want to pamper your guests use a mallet or the back of a heavy knife blade and gently crack the shells at all the joints.