Callinectes sapidus — commonly known as “Blue Crab” — is in short supply these days. Real American Blue Crab is what those of us in the South think of when it’s time to eat crab, whether we’re enjoying it as soft-shell crab, crab cakes, boiled crab or steamed crab. Blue Crab’s scientific name translates to “beautiful savory swimmer,” and this crustacean lives up to its name: It is sought after for its sweet and tender meat, and it’s considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. Most Blue Crabs are harvested in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, but they’re becoming more of a rarity owing to several factors including imported crabmeat and agricultural run-off into their spawning waters (Blue Crabs live and spawn in brackish waters, and they are highly susceptible to environmental changes).
Crabmeat needs to be cleaned by hand, and American labor is expensive, so in the U.S. it’s typical to encounter crab cakes made with imported meat from different species of crab. At Lucky 32, however, we only buy fresh American Blue Crab meat — we want to know where our food comes from. Because crabs are harvested between spring and fall, we don’t feature crab on our menu year-round; instead, we prefer to feature it when its flavor is at its peak. You don’t have to drive to the coast to get fresh, just-caught flavor of real American Blue Crab: When crab is on our menu, be sure to come and get it!
Where to find fresh crab in the Piedmont:
- Ocean Fresh Seafood Market: 954 E. Bessemer Ave., Greensboro
- The Shrimp Connection: At Swedebread Organic Farm Market, Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market-Colfax, Summerfield Farms and Josh’s Farmers Market. Click herefor addresses and hours.
- Locals Seafood (at the Raleigh City Farmers Market @ City Market): 214 E. Martin St., Raleigh; and at the Raleigh State Farmers Market, inside the Market Shoppes at 209 Farmers Market Dr., Raleigh
Tips on buying, prepping and cooking fresh crab:
- Visit retail locations with reliable fishmongers who turn their inventory over quickly.
- Talk to your fishmonger. Ask them what’s good, what’s the freshest, and where their crabmeat came from. The same applies when you go out to eat. Always ask where your seafood came from, if it’s not already stated on the menu.
- When prepping crab, carefully pick through the meat for any remnants of shell that escaped the initial cleaning.
- Remember that crabmeat is packaged pre-cooked, so all you need to do is re-heat it. Just be careful you don’t cook it at too high of a temperature, the higher the heat, the more likely it is you’ll rob the meat of its moisture. Crabcakes especially are ideal when they’re just warm enough in the center, rather than piping hot.
- 24 oz lump crabmeat
- 3 tbsp diced celery
- 3 tbsp diced green pepper
- 6 tbsp diced red onion
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1½ tbsp mayonnaise
- 1½ tsp Delaware Bay seasoning
- 1 tsp ground mustard
- 3 tbsp grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup panko (breadcrumbs)
Pick through the crabmeat to remove all shells. Puree celery, bell peppers and onions in food processor; squeeze out juice and use pulp in recipe. Add all ingredients (except the crabmeat and breadcrumbs) to a large bowl. Thoroughly blend together. Add crabmeat and breadcrumbs, and mix well. Let mixture rest for 10 minutes before forming into cakes. Portion cakes to desired size and sauté in hot oil until golden on both sides. Makes 8 crab cakes.
Deviled Crab Dip
- 1 pound crabmeat
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ½ tbsp chopped garlic
- ¾ tsp ground mustard
- 2 tbsp horseradish
- ¾ tsp celery salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp Florida Bay seasoning
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tbsp parsley flakes
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tsp Tabasco® Sauce
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 oz cream cheese
Heat oil in a saucepot; sweat the garlic. Add the mustard, celery salt, horseradish, pepper, Florida Bay, kosher salt, parsley, Worcestershire, and Tabasco®. Stir to mix well. Slowly add the cream, whisking to blend well. Continue cooking until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and cool. Whip cream cheese in a mixer and add cooled sauce while mixer is running. When fully mixed, fold in crabmeat. Yield: 1½ quarts.
Crab & Corn Soup, from Elizabeth Wiegand’s The Outer Banks Cookbook
Crab and corn season coincide at the end of summer, so this soup is the perfect end-of-summer dish. It captures the essence of both the sweet corn and the crab. So many of us grow up eating crab and corn soup, and really love it, but never have a family recipe. In comes Elizabeth Wiegand, a wonderful food writer and cookbook author. We asked her for permission to serve her soup in our restaurant, and it’s been a hit ever since.
- 1/8 pound unsalted butter
- 4 cups diced yellow onions
- ½ cup diced roasted red peppers
- 1/8 cup minced garlic
- 2 cups water
- 1 quart crab stock
- 6 cups corn off the cob
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- salt & black pepper to taste
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Melt butter in a saucepot. Sweat the onions until golden. Add the roasted peppers and garlic, then cook until fragrant. Add the water and stock and bring just to a boil. Add the corn and seasonings; simmer for 10-12 minutes. Add cream, bring back to a simmer and turn off the heat. Adjust salt to taste. Makes 3 quarts.
Fun Facts about Crabs
- While there are around 850 species of crab, the most common harvested species are: Blue, Dungeness, Red King, Blue King, Box, Snow and Stone.
- Crabs have 10 legs.
- Crabs molt (shed their old shell) each year, and grow new, larger shells; if the crabs are harvested before this new shell hardens, they are known as “softshell crabs.”
- Male crabs have larger claws than female crabs.
- A group of crabs is called a cast.
- Crabmeat is a good source of vitamins A, B and C, omega-3, zinc and copper.
To learn more about crabs, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website, and check out their Seafood Watch list to learn about which crabs are the most sustainable. To learn more about sustainable seafood in general, check out this NPR interview, with sustainable seafood advocate and author, Paul Greenberg.
Posted July 2014