Crabs are Delectable Summer Fare

by Mark R. Vogel

            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.  Fresh crabmeat is pre-cooked but nevertheless is highly perishable.  Use it within a day or two of buying it.  Some sources say that the raw meat from live crabs that have died can be used within 24 hours but I’d stick with ones that are still alive at the onset of cooking.

Crabs are nutritious, low in fat, and high in protein.  Three and one half ounces of crabmeat contains twenty 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. 

 

CRABMEAT SALAD

 

1 lb fresh lump crabmeat

1 small red onion, chopped

Half a red bell pepper, chopped

4 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro

Half cup (4 oz.) softened cream cheese

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt & pepper to taste

 

            Simply mix all the ingredients and then decide on how you wish to serve it.  Spread it on cut up pieces of celery as an hors d’oeuvre, use it as a dip, or put it on bread or a pita for sandwiches.

 

 CRABCAKES

 

Half of a small red onion, chopped,

Half of a red bell pepper, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped, (optional)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 egg, beaten

4 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning mix

1 lb fresh lump crabmeat

4 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs for filling, plus extra as needed for  the crust 

Salt and pepper to taste

 

           Sauté the onion and peppers in one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of the butter.  Add garlic and sauté one minute more.  Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.  Beat the egg with the OldBay.  Combine with the crabmeat, herbs, mayonnaise, 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs, and the sautéed onions, peppers and garlic.  Mix well.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Form the mixture into eight patties.  Add a light coating of the breadcrumbs to the outside of the cakes as well.  Add the remaining olive oil and butter to a 14-inch ovenproof skillet.  Sauté the crab cakes until light golden brown on each side, about two minutes.  Place the skillet in a preheated 350 degree oven for seven minutes.  Serve with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, or a flavored mayonnaise. 

 SOFT-SHELL CRABS WITH GREMOLATA

 

6 soft-shell crabs

Flour as needed

Olive oil as needed

Salt and pepper to taste

Quarter cup chopped parsley

2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced

Zest from 2 lemons.

 

            This recipe is delicious but might be too barbaric for some.  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 sauté in olive oil over medium heat for three minutes on each side.  Remove and drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with the gremolata to serve.

 

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