It’s that magical time of year again. Crab season! I think it’s especially magical for me this year because I am on maternity leave from all dock duties and get to enjoy the start of the season without the stress. I have received no trucking SOS calls and I am not overseeing any inspections. It’s glorious.
Saturday drops will be getting whole cooked Dungeness crab. We will be doing a live crab drop soon, but that drop will require special trucking. I thought getting the very first crab pulled out of Bodega Bay would be a real treat, so we went forward with a cooked crab drop to make that happen. The traps went out on Thursday, the crabs were pulled in on Friday, and cooked on Friday afternoon. I made a whole crab breakdown tutorial that you can find here. You can also check out all past crab posts and recipes here. Enjoy!
This week we have fresh picked Dungeness crabmeat. The local crab season is winding down, and this will definitely be the last of the crab from Siren until November. SALMON SEASON STARTS NEXT WEEK! The meat is picked by hand and will come packaged in a 10 oz. or 20 oz. tray. It is always a good idea to pick through the meat to remove any shell fragments that might have made it into the final pack.
The trays are perfect for freezing, and the meat will keep for up to 6 months in the freezer. The best way to store the tray of crabmeat without freezing is in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Storing them on ice in the refrigerator is even better. The meat should stay fresh for three to four days.
My favorite way to use fresh crabmeat is to toss a couple of handfuls into scrambled eggs. YES. It is especially great if you take that crabby scrambled egg mixture and put it on a croissant.
Well, not really thieves but it sounds more dramatic than competent people who mishandled my squid, and I choose to always err on the side of drama. The squid was left behind at the dock in Monterey, and because it was left behind it was sold to another buyer. I understand why this happened. If the product sits it goes bad and then everyone loses money. I had a few minutes of PANIC as I tried to figure out what to deliver this week.
During the day I work in a seafood plant that cooks at least thirty thousand pounds of crab a day. I looked out of my office window towards the unloading area, and saw bins and bins of lively Dungeness crab. Problem solved.
I apologize for the lack of new crab material. This was a VERY last minute substitution on a very busy day. Enjoy these links to past crab posts!
I must apologize for the lateness of this recipe. I am battling a cold that has killed my ability to do anything other than take baths and DayQuil. Don’t punish the recipe because I was late posting it! It’s a nice little cheesy recipe that combines black cod and crab in a grand and tasty way.
I have been knocking this around in my mind for awhile, and the opportunity to pounce presented itself this week when I decided that I could not do JUST black cod two weeks in a row. I doubt that anyone would complain and I feel weird calling it JUST black cod, but it would feel like quite a defeat to send out identical shares back to back. So, black cod and crab are headed your way. The crab will arrive cooked and whole, ready to crack and eat. You will get black cod fillet with the skin on and the pin bones in. Both are delicious on their own and both will freeze beautifully. I will link to handling instructions and fisherman backgrounds after the recipe.
I had the pleasure of doing recipe development night with Ms. Sandra Larsen, my mother. She’s the lady who made me love food in the first place, and it was so fun spending time in the kitchen with her. This was going to be Dungeness Crab Stuffed Black Cod, but the black cod refused to be stuffed. It did, however, agree to be topped.
Dungeness Crab Topped Black Cod
Serves 2 (Double this for a full share.)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced fennel bulb
2 Tbsp chopped fennel fronds
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs (sourdough is best)
1/4 cup grated fontina
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1 cup dungeness crabmeat (About one crab’s worth)
Salt and pepper
2 four ounce black cod fillets, skin on and pin bones removed (If the pin bones are being mean, it is perfectly acceptable to leave them in. Make sure you warn your guests to look for bones!)
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. In a small sauce pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced fennel and cook until just softened. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
3. In a large bowl, combine the fennel and garlic mixture with the breadcrumbs, fontina, parmigiano, ricotta, crabmeat and half of the fennel fronds. Using your hands, mix until just combined.
4. Salt and pepper both sides of the black cod fillets. Place the two fillets, skin side down, on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
5. Form the crab stuffing mixture into two balls and mold one ball over the top of each black cod fillet.
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the stuffing is golden brown and the fish is opaque. Top with the remaining fennel fronds and serve hot.
Your new little crustacean buddy will come to you fully cooked with all of its guts and crabby bits still inside. Some people like to eat that yucky stuff and call it “butter.” I call it yucky stuff, so you can probably guess where I stand on the issue. I gutted and cracked my crabs on a big plate, using a bowl to collect the innards. I would recommend covering your counter with newspaper to make clean-up easier. Crab goes from smelling great to smelling awful pretty quickly, so you want to thoroughly clean up after you are done eating. You will need a knife, a fork, and a hammer or crab cracker to get to the good stuff.
Start by placing your crab on its back. This is also the best way to store a cooked crab before you eat it. More juice stays inside the body, and therefore the meat, if the crab is stored on its back.
Here comes the fun part! Slice that sucker in half with a big shiny knife. It’s pretty easy to do and shouldn’t take too much force.
It’s about to get real. Pull the big solid piece of shell off the top of each side. There will be some gnarly looking stuff in there and a lot of briny juice. You don’t want to eat anything that comes off inside the big piece of shell.
My strategy is to scrape off anything that isn’t fluffy white crabmeat with a fork.
Then I snap off the mouth appendages.
After the scraping and snapping, you should be left with two pieces that look like this. I prefer cracking the crab with a hammer and then picking out the meat. I try to crack each joint in two places. It makes the meat easier to pull out in large pieces.
I adapted this from a Mario Batali recipe that calls for canned crabmeat. Canned crabmeat has a place in crab cakes and maybe on a salad, but in pasta…not so much. I made this with fresh picked Dungeness crabmeat and WOW, that is definitely the way to go. Picking crabmeat is a bit of a chore, but the results are worth it. I added in some lemon zest and butter because I don’t really want to eat crab without butter and lemon. Ever.
A half share will get one whole cooked Dungeness crab that should yield 1.25 pounds of crabmeat when picked, which is about a quarter pound more than the recipe calls for. More crabmeat is generally a great idea, so I would advise you to throw all of the meat in.
Spaghettini with Dungeness Crab and Jalapeños
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (Not the trampy stuff)
2 Tbsp butter
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
1/4 cup white wine
1 pound Dungeness crabmeat
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 pound spaghettini
Salt and pepper
1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 Tbsp salt.
2. Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat in a 14 inch sauté pan. Add garlic and sauté until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add jalapeños and wine, bring to a boil. Add crabmeat and lemon zest and remove from heat.
3. Boil spaghettini 1 minute less than stated on the package instructions. Drain in a colander over the sink.
4. Add pasta to crab mixture and return to heat. Cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Salt and pepper to taste.
It’s finally Dungeness crab season. As usual, there was a bit of season-delaying drama to start things out, but a price has been set and the fishermen are busy. Things were tense here during negotiations, but it seems like the two week opening delay allowed the crabs to fatten up a bit. The crabs that have been arriving at the plant where I spend most of my days have been big, beautiful, and delicious. I got to spend a lovely sunny afternoon at Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay this week, and it was so interesting to see how the unloading dock functions.
Almost every boat in the marina was loaded with crab pots. Fishermen will go out and set their pots with the intention of returning in a couple of days to bring in the full traps. Pots have been heavy and full. It is a great sign. The meat yield will typically increase as the weather grows colder and the season progresses. We are in for a great crab season.
The crabs are unloaded at various docks around the marina. Our little fellas will be offloaded at the Paisano Brothers dock. The dock is run by Richie Franceschi, a man with over 40 years on boats and on the docks.
The boats pull up to the dock where Richie and his crew will inspect the crabs and weigh them. As soon as the weight and condition of the load is recorded, a Department of Fish and Game landing tag is filled out and filed.
The crabs are held in common holding tanks after they are offloaded and logged. This makes it impossible to trace a specific crab back to a specific boat, but the method of catch is the same for all Dungeness crab that are landed. So, we need not worry too much about traceability back to the boat. Knowing that the pots are pulled from a fishery that is open and safe is the most important consideration.
Our crabs will be trucked to North Coast Fisheries in Santa Rosa where they will be cooked in large open baskets. Huge tanks of boiling salted water and giant vats of ice water are full of crab baskets 20 hours a day during crab season. I am the Quality Control Manager who paces around this madhouse making sure that the paperwork is compliant and the cooked crabs are tasty. They are.