Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Can't Get Fresher Than That

Last week I talked about finding someone down at the dock who sells fresh crab. I was so thrilled to find him, and yesterday was back at the docks picking up this guy.


He was about a pound and a half, and cost me $12. Being a former scuba diver, I do know a little bit about crabs. They come out at night, which is when octopus like to feed on them. They don't like the wave action created by a diver's fins, and if the diver in front of you swims over a bunch of crabs, they will be poised with their claws up, ready to FIGHT. You may have to bat them away with your light to keep from being pinched.

About 1/3 of the crabs that come in to be sold are missing a claw, because they are super territorial. Those crabbies are $2 cheaper. As I stood there, cooler in hand with my newspaper and iced up catch, I talked crabs with my local fisherman and he filled me in on the straight goods.

Big boats who catch a lot of crabs for big stores in the city stay out on the water for 3 weeks at a time, catching their entire quota before they return and sell the crabs to the stores to stick in those tanks you see. This crabbie was caught by a local Sunshine Coast fisherman, who goes out twice a week. He had been brought to the docks only 2 hours before I arrived to buy him and was kept in the bay in a plastic trap.

You can't get any fresher or more local than that.

Here's another tip; you want crabs that are feisty. Docile crabs mean they are near death, which isn't good.

This dude was FEISTY. In a rush to get dinner on the table, I soon realized that I had no idea how to cook crab so I sent Jake to do some research.

Soon we had the water boiling, and I made Jake pick up the crab (I was too chicken) and stick him in the pot. His crustacean legs waved around forlornly, and for a moment, Jake hesitated. Stroking the crab's head gently, he talked to it until it calmed down. (How the HECK did he do that?) Then he held it over the pot.

Into the pot you go!

"Mom! The crab won't go in!" The crab, sensing danger, spread it's legs out as far as they would go, as if it were gripping the sides of the pot for dear life. Jake, originally all "I can cook a crab" began to waffle. I could see him deciding to take it back down to the beach to set it free, singing Kumbaya and wishing it luck on it's crabby quest.

I paid good money for that crab, people. I was going to EAT IT.

Grabbing the crab from Jake, I shoved it in the pot, wiggling legs and all, and slapped the lid on as I could hear the pings while the crustacean was in it's death throes and thrashing around a little. Remember the scene in Julie and Julia? (If you haven't seen it, you must click through. It's hilarious, and exactly how we felt about this crab)

Soon all was quiet. We did it. We murdered our own dinner. Ten minutes later, the lifeless crab was bright orange and finished cooking. We plunged him into ice water to cool, and then ripped off his legs, cracked open that body, and fished out all the yummy bits.

Juice ran all over the counter and floor. Bits of shell were everywhere. We gorged on sweet crab meat dipped in garlic butter, and we cracked and peeled away the hard bits encasing it.

Crab Legs

In some ways, I felt very primal. When we go to the store and buy chicken breasts or hamburger, I never think about the cow or chicken it came from. I didn't look the beast in the eyes and kill it myself, watching it's life drain away. Instead the good parts come to me in neat packages, completely apart from the animal itself as if hamburger is just always that way, magically appearing in the store wrapped in plastic film with no messiness or unwanted bits attached to it.

This time I looked the animal in the eyes. I killed it. Then I happily ate it.

And it was DELICIOUS.

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