Fresh Dungeness crab is always a treat! This past weekend we were the most fortunate recipients of two beautiful Dungeness crabs direct from crab pots set in the Pacific outside of the Golden Gate. A longtime friend of ours, Ron Fudala, an avid sportsman when it comes to all things involving the ocean, stopped by our home to deliver these delicious creatures after a day at sea. With visions of a feast of sweet and delicate marinated cracked crab coupled with Caesar salad and homemade garlic bread racing through our minds we immediately put a large kettle of water on the stove to cook the crustaceans while still alive, an important thing to do when cooking fresh Dungeness crab. Rather than dining immediately after the crab was cooked we chose to crack them and allow them to marinate overnight in extra virgin olive oil, tangy fresh lemon juice, minced Italian parsley, green onions and lemon zest. Pre-cooked Dungeness crab can be marinated if one is not keen on working with live crab. There is, however, absolutely nothing that can come close to the magnificent freshness of the sea when this dish begins with live Dungeness crab direct from the ocean’s waters!
Marinated Cracked Dungeness Crab
A large pot of boiling salted water is essential! To cook two Dungeness crabs add to a large pot over high heat:
2 gallons cold water
1 C coarse salt
When the water comes to a boil add the crab. When the water returns to a full boil cook the crab for 15 minutes at continuous high heat. Transfer the crabs to the sink and, using the handle end of a large spoon slid under the carapace on the back side, turn the spoon to crack the carapace:
Prop the crabs against the side of the sink with the opening made with the spoon on the bottom to allow the excess cooking water to drain out:
Immediately place the crabs in a large pot, cover with ice, then add enough cold water to cover:
Allow the crab to cool and chill in the ice water for 30 minutes. Drain:
Lift the carapace up from where the spoon was inserted and remove it:
Note the gills bilaterally on the body. Remove them using your fingers and discard. Detach the legs using a quick and easy turn of the hand:
Note the creamy fat that covers portions of the body. Commonly called “crab butter” this sweet delicacy can be shared with others… or not!
Cut the body into four pieces… or six… depending on the size of the crab, revealing the sweet succulent flesh inside:
Gently crack the legs with a crab cracker or the side of a meat pounder so as to keep the integrity of the flesh. We recommend using a kitchen towel or two to keep your work surface… and your kitchen… as tidy as possible. This can be a bit messy!
Place the divided body and the cracked legs into a large bowl or container for marination. Add:
- 1 bunch chopped green onions
- 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, minced
- 1/2 – 3/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
- zest of 2 – 3 large lemons
Whisk together and add to the bowl/container with the crab:
- 1 – 1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 – 10 whole peeled large cloves of garlic, microplaned
Chef’s Note: Whisking together the olive oil and the microplaned garlic will quickly incorporate the garlic juices into the olive olive, enhancing the marination of the crab.
Using a large slotted spoon turn all ingredients so the legs and body pieces are well coated:
Refrigerate overnight, turning the mixture occasionally. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. In our kitchen this is wonderfully complemented with Caesar salad and plenty of piping hot homemade garlic bread. Make it absolute perfection with a glass of crisp, dry white wine. Be sure to have plenty of napkins and towels on stand-by to wipe your fingers and hands… Bon Appetit!
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