Season For Crabs
PHOTOGRAPHED AND STYLED EUGENIA UHL
Earlier this summer, we took some crab nets along on a fishing trip, tossed them off a pier and waited for prey to grab our chicken necks. We waited - and waited - and finally gave up with only a couple of three-inch babies we threw back into the water.
This year’s crab season came a little late with new restrictions that closed crabbing for a month to increase production. These crustaceans are available year-round but are best in warm months. So now is our chance to stock up, whether it’s hauling them in with nets or buying them already cooked or even picked.
Once in a while, I splurge and buy a pound of jumbo lump crabmeat for one of the many delicious dishes our abundance of fresh shellfish affords us. Crab cakes are an easy fix for a fancy dinner, and certain old-line recipes are fun to make at home for special occasions. Some of the fish I froze from a recent fishing trip is bound to get blanketed in buttery jumbo lump crabmeat, perhaps with a little Hollandaise. Such pleasures we have on our seafood-rich coast.
Crabmeat also makes great summer salads. My favorite is avocado stuffed with crab salad and served on shredded lettuce with a splash of vinaigrette. Serve one as a side or two for a luncheon entrée.
Call it a salad, appetizer or entrée, marinated crabs, as once served by Mosca’s Restaurant, is as unique as its creator. My version is simple to make, especially from spicy crabs left over from a crab boil. Get a few extra hands to help you peel, and marinate them overnight. You’ll be happy you did.
Equally tempting for a summer supper is crab and corn bisque, paired with a chunk of crunchy French bread. This, too, can be made from crab-boil leftovers, but if you don’t mind splurging for a pound of jumbo lump, just remember you’d be paying twice as much if you lived anywhere else
Crab Salad-stuffed Avocados
Crab and Corn Bisque
1 1-pound package frozen gumbo crabs
5 ears corn
1 stick butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 small onion, chopped
4 green onions, green and white part divided, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, freshly ground pepper and Creole seasoning to taste
5 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
2 Tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Thaw crabs, clean off any debris and rinse. Shuck corn and remove silk. Place corn, one ear at a time, in a large bowl, and, using a sharp knife, slice off the kernels and juice. Set aside.
Make a light roux, melting butter in a large pot, stirring in flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until just beginning to turn brown. Add chopped white onion and celery and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and simmer another minute. Add seasonings, water and thawed crabs, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove crabs and discard, add corn and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one minute.
When ready to serve, stir lump crabmeat into bisque. Simmer for a minute or two, taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in cream and heat until hot. Add parsley and green onion tops. Serves 6 to 8.
8 to 10 boiled, well-seasoned large crabs
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
10 cloves garlic, mashed with the back of a knife
¾ to 1 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, depending on number of crabs
½ cup white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
Juice of ½ to 1 lemon, depending on number of crabs
2 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup olive salad or Italian pickled giardiniera
Use leftover crabs from a crab boil, or purchase boiled crabs from a seafood store or restaurant. Remove and discard back of the crab. Scrape out any contents in the center of the crab except yellow fat. Remove dead man’s fingers (lungs) from shells. Crack crab in half and cut off claws with scissors, leaving small legs attached. Remove the piece of shell at the large edge of each body half to reveal the lump. Break claws in half and crack each segment with a nutcracker. Peel off pinchers and some shell on the small segment and discard to allow for marinating. Repeat gently with each crab and place in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, mix all other ingredients and pour over crabs. Toss gently. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours. Stir once or twice during marinating. When ready to serve, toss again gently and place in individual bowls with some of the liquid. Serve with French bread for dipping. Serves 4 as entrée or up to 8 as an appetizer or salad.