I have an article in the current issue of Grow Northwest with some recipes for fresh Dungeness crab, which is in season right now – I know, what a terrible job, right? While I was working on it, some friends pitched in by throwing a crab party so I could try out some new recipes. Also, I had never cooked or cleaned a live crab before (my family always bought them pre-cleaned) so I got to watch the process, as well as eat warm, just-cooked crabmeat. These are good friends.
Before the party, I made up some different dipping sauces to try with both plain crabmeat and with the crabcakes I was going to cook – it seems like everyone serves crab with sweet Thai chile sauce these days and I’m really tired of it. I made a cucumber mignonette, nuoc cham, and a creamy buttermilk dressing that was somewhere between Green Goddess and ranch. I loved all of them with the crab but especially the cucumber, which made a fresh vinegary punch with the rich crabcakes.
We had everything you could want for a crab feed: wine, Saltines, Lay’s potato chips and pickled herring, lemons, and melted butter. And lots of napkins.
Plus, of course, some crabs. It was a cold night, and the crabs had been packed in ice at the farm store, but they were fairly lively.
Someone was very excited about the whole thing. Apparently Maggie once absconded with half a crab so we were careful to keep things out of her reach (our dog was not invited – it wouldn’t have been pretty). She may have gotten a few potato chips, though.
The water took forever to boil, since it was so chilly outside, but eventually we were able to cook the crabs. They don’t take long.
I admit to being a little grossed out by crab innards, but I hear some of the green wobbly bits are considered to be a delicacy. We tried a little bit but I’m not sure we’re quite converted yet. Most of the crabs were scraped out, rinsed, and rushed into the house to eat immediately.
I used two crabs’ worth of meat to make crabcakes (which Jon patiently fried up after I got tired of dealing with them), and we ate them, along with lots more fresh crab, with the dipping sauces, butter, tons of garlic bread, and a shredded root vegetable salad.
If you live in Dungeness crab country, this is one of the best winter parties ever. It’s pretty great in the summertime, too.