When this year’s Dungeness crab season opened two weeks ago right on schedule, I breathed a sigh of relief.
As I’m sure did so many fishermen and Dungeness aficionados.
After all, last year was truly dismal, thanks to a toxic algae bloom, which resulted in high levels of domoic acid in the crabs, making them unfit for consumption until the very tail end of the season, by which time most people had sworn them off anyway.
This winter is a different story. The crabs are not only safe to eat, but supposedly meatier because they’ve had more time to grow.
I, for one, am happily indulging already. In fact, thanks to Hayward seafood distributor, Pucci Foods, I enjoyed my first Dungeness crab of the season just a couple days after the local commercial season started. Its new direct-to-consumer site, Daily Fresh Fish, delivers fresh, sustainable seafood right to your door.
I was sent a free sample of its fresh, cooked, cracked and clean Dungeness crab to try. Now, normally, I’m one for buying live crabs to cook at home. Even as a kid, I can still remember the sound of the claws scraping the kitchen sink as my Mom readied the crabs to go into a steamer. And my husband and I remember one crab in particular that fairly tried to grab onto the edge of the pot to keep from being submerged in the boiling water.
If you’re at all squeamish about scenes like that, then cooked crabs may be the ideal alternative. I must admit, it’s hard to beat the convenience. My 2 pounds of cooked, cracked crab arrived safely on my porch, all packed in a cooler lined with ice packs.
I could have starting eating then and there, either plain or with melted butter or cocktail sauce. But I thought I’d try doing something just slightly more ambitious.
Fortunately, I’d recently received a review copy of the new “Crab: 50 Recipes With the Fresh Taste of the Sea” (Sasquatch Books) by Cynthia Nims, a Seattle-based veteran cookbook author.
The book has a wealth of recipes not just for Dungeness, but soft-shell, king, snow, blue and even stone crab claws. Feast on everything from “Crab & Mushroom Dutch Baby” to ” Whiskey Crab Soup” to “Crab and Corn Souffle.” It also includes illustrated directions to show the exact way to clean a hard-shelled crab like Dungeness, too.
“Rosemary Roasted Crab” was made for my bounty. Although you can roast an uncooked crab in this way, it also works well with an already cooked one, imparting a surprising amount of Mediterranean flavor.
And what flavor it is — awash with lemon, garlic and rosemary. Just toss the cracked crab pieces with olive oil and those aromatics, plus a smidge of dried red pepper flakes, then roast in a very hot oven for about 10 minutes.
Then, dig in to enjoy true finger-licking goodness.
CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a copy of the cookbook, “Crab” by Cynthia Nims, plus two cooked, cleaned and cracked Dungeness crabs, courtesy of Daily Fresh Fish.
Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Dec. 3. Winner will be announced Dec. 5.
How to win?
Just tell me why you love Dungeness crab so much. Best answer wins.
Rosemary Roasted Crab
(Makes 2 to 4 servings)
2 Dungeness crabs (about 2 pounds each), cleaned and portioned, shells lightly cracked if precooked
6 to 8 long sprigs fresh rosemary
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mild olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Lay the crab portions in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and top with the rosemary sprigs and lemon slices. Add the oil, garlic, and pepper flakes, and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to coat the crab pieces with the seasonings, then arrange them in an even layer with most of the rosemary and lemon underneath. If using raw crab, roast the crab until the flesh is just opaque through (use body portions to judge doneness; their flesh will be more visible), about 15 minutes, or roast the precooked crab until it is heated through, 7 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the crab pieces to a serving platter, surround them with rosemary sprigs and lemon slices, and serve.
From “Crab” by Cynthia Nims
Another Crab Recipe to Try: Boiled Crab in Beer