It’s that time of year on the west coast. The Dungeness crab are plentiful and sweet. They’re at their best live and thrashing about in the boiling water, but about all that’s readily available is pre-cooked on the boat, a horrible indignity to a decent crab.
Nevertheless, there are remedies. The following is an approximation of a recipe from the now defunct Indoia Joze restaurant of Santa Cruz, Califiornia. It consists of thus:
Take a 2 - 2.5 lb. Dungeness crab and simmer it (alive or pre-cooked) in coconut milk, chopped fresh ginger root, chopped fresh garlic, chopped fresh cilantro, mango powder (amchoor), and some salt, for about 8 minutes. Serve with the sauce, boiled down for a while.
I’ve only had pre-cooked Dungeness crab, and Dungeness crab i’ve cooked myself, so I don’t know if this is true. See, I clean the crabs before cooking them. I prefer my killed-immediately-before-cooking Dungeness crabs to the cooked-on-the-boat variety. But until I catch a crab myself and boil it alive, I can’t say I’ve covered all of the bases. However, last year I caught some Dungees and cooked them my way. A friend said they tasted better than the boiled-alive crabs she’d eaten before.
Here’s how: Put the crab on its back. Have on hand a heavy knife. (I have a ‘knife’ that’s basically a half-size machete.) Lay the edge along the crab’s belly, exactly along the middle and whack it with a mallet. (If you don’t get it right down the middle, the larger half will try to pinch.) Grasp the legs on one half and wrench them off of the body. Give them a healthy shake to get the lungs off, then clean them well under running water. Repeat for the other side. Put the legs (and central attaching structure) into a pot of boiling, salted water for 11 minutes. I use one cup of salt in two gallons of water. I’ve cooked them in seawater, but salted fresh water is better IMO. Serve with melted butter with a little bit of garlic salt in it.
One advantage of killing and cleaning before boiling is that you can get more crabs in the pot.
Separate out the crabe meat from the shell. Don’t lose any juice! Put the shells and the juice in a pot and boil in salmon/white-wine stock with a lot of carrots, a fennel root, a ginger finger, and couple of cloves. Strain. Puree the carrots and return to the broth. Add some cream and a little cornstarch to bind. Ladle over the crab meat. Amazing garnished with fennel crescents that have been dredged in flour and fried in oil in which you have first fried a habanera pepper. When I’ve made this I’ve called it Crab-Carrot Bisque with Fennel Crisps.