Saturday, July 10, 2010
Dungeness crab is the jewel of the west coast, named after a small town in Washington, harvested from southern California all the way to the Aleutian islands in Alaska it is the a huge staple of the local economy. the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch list (a list worth downloading and printing) calls it a great choice for sustainability as well. i work with a lot of this product. whole crabs, half crabs, crab cakes, crab stuffed chicken, crab sauteed on salmon, or halibut, crab cocktails, etc. the restaurant i work is the largest consumer of crab on the Oregon or Washington coasts. this time of year i am buying around 200#s a week of just picked crab meat. we buy it in 5# cans. because we buy so much of it we are able to negotiate pricing from different potential purveyors, even with those allowances it is spendy. i have to remind cooks how much it costs every day, as we get pretty saturated with it. locally crab season usually starts in mid December and ends in march sometime, alot of the season depends on how quick the industry is catching quotas that have been set up to keep it sustainable. seasons vary up and down the coast, and again they vary quite a bit. this monster came via Canada.
Dungeness crabs will molt a few times during the duration of their lives, losing their shell and burying themselves in the sand for a week or so until their new one grows in. for recreation, locally, they can be caught year round which is a great way to get around the price, i think the shellfish permit is less than $20. like lobster you wont see them in raw form, unless alive. they are capable of poisoning themselves if they sense danger so to prevent it they are usually cooked right when they are received by the cannery. if you find yourself in the position to cook lives ones-plenty of salted boiling water and about 10 minutes will do, or a good steam for 12-15 minutes will do the trick. they are amazing on their own, or with a steak, or other seafood. i love crab legs with hollandaise. they have a sweet, buttery, briny taste to them.i find them to be better than lobster, red king crab, snow crab (opelio) blue crab, soft shell, etc. a fantastic local product, that supports our local economy, and is harvested in a very sustainable manner. what more could you ask for.
add on- its really important to keep in mind when working with products like proteins but especially with some types of seafoods that men and women put their life on the line to get them to our table. fishing, crabbing, and working in canneries is some of the hardest most dangerous work that one can do. is essence the pursuit of the crab that ends up on your plate has costed not only the life of crab, but also the life of thousands of people. i am not only talking the shows on TV either. last year a local (columbia river) crabber was killed, he was younger than i, and a stepson of one of my purveyors. the least i can do as a chef, and a human is treat it with the upmost respect, and appreciate the sacrifices that have been made for our consumption.