Dungeness Crabs

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Because my birthday was on Sunday (yes, I’m now old), we decided to do something special for dinner on Saturday. We would’ve gone out to eat but, really, we had eaten out enough the previous week and we didn’t particularly feel like it. Instead, we decided to get something special to make for dinner.

Growing up, there’s always be at least one day in the summer when we’d get steamed crabs. Because I grew up in Maryland, these were always blue crabs seasoned with lots of Old Bay. I remember eating them at a young enough age that I really couldn’t pick the crabs myself so I had to have my parents do it for me. And, of course, they’re messy. And you never really get a lot of meat out of them. As my great-grandfather used to say, “You can eat crabs until you die of starvation.”

When I moved to the west coast I knew that blue crabs aren’t native here but something called Dungeness crab. I had seen cooked crabs at the grocery store in the past but they were always expensive and I knew that crabs are best if cooked live. I had heard about how good the Dungeness crabs were supposed to be but was never in a position to really try them (there seems to be a lack of good seafood in Long Beach for an area that is so close to the sea).

When we were in San Francisco, I did actually order half of a crab for lunch. It was served cold which seemed odd to me. It was good but it wasn’t particularly special. I thought I needed to give the crabs a fair chance.

Which brings us to Saturday, when we were in Eagle Rock. After lunch, we stopped at Seafood City (because who doesn’t enjoy wandering around a new ethnic supermarket?). I found that they were selling pork belly which I was looking for to make panchetta (it’s curing at the moment) and they also had an amazing seafood selection. While the fish looked excellent and I was tempted to buy some, I knew that Angela wasn’t a fan.

Instead, we decided that our special ingredient for the evening (and now I feel like the announcer on Iron Chef) would be Dungeness crabs. The fish counter attendant had to fish them out of a large tank and the crabs didn’t seem interested in leaving. And at least one other store employee came up to the crab catcher and jumped at her to startle her.

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With our crabs in the car, we rushed home to refrigerate the crabs on more ice. They had already started settling down from their initial level of activity (I wanted to label it frenetic but it could only be called frenetic in comparison to a snail).

They sat in the refrigerator for several hours until it came time for dinner. Now, I had never cooked crabs before (but I knew how it worked with blue crabs) so I had to check several different websites. I decided on steaming them for 15 minutes as it seemed less error prone then boiling (less ability for the crabs to get water logged as they aren’t in the water).

I do, however, think I made a mistake: I put a lid on the pot while steaming the crabs. It resulted in lots of bubbles forming which helped some water get in the crabs. But they weren’t overcooked.

We served them with homemade bread (the recipe will be posted someday) and a California Chardonnay (only lightly oaked and not buttery). As for the taste, the claws were quite good. One crab lost a claw before cooking and it was less tasty than the one that got cooked still attached; empirical evidence that cooking live crabs is better. Neither of us found the body meat to be as good as the claw meat. This is the opposite to blue crabs where the claw meat is alright but the body meat is better. I did like them though.

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2 Responses to “Dungeness Crabs”


  1. 1 Anastasia October 23, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Hi there, and happy somewhat belated birthday! I tend to read Angela’s blog and therefore yours too. Haven’t gotten around to trying anything, but I certainly plan to!

    I went to Assateague a few weeks ago to introduce my SO to blue crabs. Tried to catch our own, but that didn’t work out quite well enough, so we went out for them. Delicious even if not cooked at the campsite!

  2. 2 foodloverguy October 25, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I’d go for the crabs. But I would go for a cold beer instead of wine.


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