The American Series, Pt. III — The Crab Feed

On the east coast, you have clam bakes. I’m jealous of you. In Alaska, you have salmon bakes. And I’m jealous of you, too. But on the West Coast, we have crab feeds. And you are jealous of us.

Sure, our friends around Baltimore will point out that they, too, have a crab tradition — spending frustrating hours picking and sucking miniscule bits of meat out of piles of Old Bay-seasoned blue crabs. But to those of us in the West, used to big mountains and wide open spaces, that’s the equivalent of eating a meatball when you could have a rib-eye. I’m talking about beautiful, abundant Dungeness crab, pulled from the Pacific bursting with snow white meat. Up where my mom lives in Sonoma County — where some of the best crabbing waters are — you’ll see signs during crab season inviting you to local crab feed fundraisers. $15 for all you can eat. That’s my kind of community event.

But doing your own classic Dungeness crab feed at home is easy — you don’t even need a recipe, and when crabs are abundant they shouldn’t cost you more than $3 or $4 a pound (at least in California). Simply break up your pre-cooked crabs into pieces, steam or place in a hot oven for 10 minutes, and serve in a big pile with drawn butter, and crusty sourdough bread with cold butter. Have some cold Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada or Full Sail Ale on hand or a big jammy Sonoma County zinfandel.

Because I like to give you recipes, here’s my other favorite way to eat Dungeness crab. This is a Cantonese-style preparation, by way of Australia. Enjoy!

*   *   *

Salt & pepper crab
serves 4

2 Dungeness crabs, pre-cooked and cleaned
2 cups flour
2 tbsp. paprika
2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
1 cup canola oil
3 tbsp. chili oil (available in Asian markets, or Asian sections at fine markets)

Break crab into chunks. Using a nutcracker or mallet, gently crack the shell of the legs and claws, and tear away small pieces of shell to reveal meat inside. (You want the crab to remain in the shell, but bits of the meat exposed.)

Combine flour, paprika, salt and pepper on a large plate or bowl, or in a bag. Dredge the crab chunks in the flour and shake off excess. Set chunks aside on a clean plate. Combine canola and chili oils and heat over medium-high in a large pan. Cook crab chunks in batches. Cook for a few minutes on each side, until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a 180-degree oven until all chunks are cooked. Sprinkle with additional salt, serve with crab forks and plenty of napkins.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andy
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 01:20:11

    That video was adorable!


  2. paul
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 02:46:52

    Last words I received from Dan in an exchange of e-mails regarding being born Cancer/Crabs–“Let’s get crackin’!” How apropos. Thanks for ringing in our sign with a big crab feed dance . . . synchronicity . . . 8^)


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