There was a time when “crabby” was an insult. These days it’s delicious. Stone crabs are the stars of Florida’s crustacean show, but they are available only from October through mid-May. Hey, that’s now! [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
Blue crabs can be harvested all the time, except for a few days in specific areas.
You’ll find only the black-tipped claws of stone crabs in stores. They are cooked as soon as possible after the crabber snaps them off the critters so the meat doesn’t stick to the shell. Stone crab claws grow back in about 18 months; in the meantime, if only one claw is harvested, the crab has one left for eating and defense. It is legal, but not very bright or humane, to take both claws. There is a 78 percent mortality rate with both claws gone.
If you would prefer to get your crab right from the open waters, you can harvest blue crabs in shallow, brackish water using a dip net, some really stinky bait and a heavy pair of gloves. A recreational fishing license is required, and make sure you know the regulations before you go.
Melted butter and citrus juice is the usual dunk and sprits for stone crab claws. Now it’s time to think outside of the shell. You get novel nibbles and more servings than offering whole claws.
Idea 1) Break up the meat from a few claws. Mix it with mayo and Old Bay Seasoning and pickle relish for a quick dip.
Idea 2) Let’s get a little fancier. Make a couple of cups of white sauce (béchamel). Mix in 2 cups of crabmeat (stone or blue) and 1/4 cup each of finely diced green and red pepper. Spice it up with pepper sauce and serve it warm in small phyllo cups from a supermarket. Puff pastry shells work, too, for a heartier serving.
Idea 3) For a pretty presentation, make a platter of stone crab claws out of the shell, alternating with peeled orange slices. To make a simple sauce, simmer orange juice with plenty of fresh ginger and a touch of sugar. When it tastes right to you, add a slurry of corn starch as well as orange juice a bit at a time while it simmers and thickens a little. Pour this over the crab and orange.
Idea 4) Because crab costs more than shrimp, you can stretch the former with the latter for crab cakes. Let your imagination guide you to sauces.
There’s nothing wrong with looking to another crabby state for more ideas. Maryland has plenty of blue crabs, too.
Cookbook author Jean Anderson has a recipe for Blue Crab Soup in her book, A Love Affair with Southern Cooking. It comes from a famous Chesapeake Bay cook named Mari Major. Start with a light white sauce, and plenty of it, spiced with nutmeg, pepper, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and cream sherry. Diced celery adds texture. Add a pound of crabmeat to the sauce and heat gently. Garnish each bowl with sliced hard cooked egg and thinly sliced lemon.
Now make it with Florida crab.
DID YOU KNOW?
Stone crab claws are graded by weight.
• Under 3 ounces are “Medium.”
• 3 to 5 ounces are “Large.”
• More than 5 ounces are “Jumbo.”
A pound of claws usually is enough for a meal.
article by TRENT ROWE
Trent Rowe is the food editor of Central Florida Ag News. [/emember_protected]