28 January 2009

Benito vs. the Beautiful Swimmer: Blue Crabs

How did I celebrate my 4th anniversary last week? No wine, oddly enough. Wasn't in the mood. I'm not burnt out or anything, but I felt like crabs and beer. Fortunately the crazy international grocery store at Winchester/Kirby has started stocking live blue crabs. As Grace is the most enthusiastic crab fan I know, I invited her over to join me for the feast.

Meet Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha. A quartet of gals dolled up with fresh red nail polish. Actually, that's natural coloration and an easy way to tell the boys from the girls. These are mature female crabs, or sooks, as can be determined by turning them over. Be careful: I only handled these things with tongs, because those claws are sharp, strong, and not constrained by rubber bands. Plus they'll snap at anything that moves into their field of vision. As you can see at right, they'll even clip off each others legs while you're trying to take a photo. (It's one thing to remove a minor blemish or stray crumb in Photoshop. But a detached leg? Too weird to edit out.)

I grabbed a sixer of Fat Tire Mothership Wit from Ft. Collins, Colorado. A wheat beer flavored with orange and coriander sounded good with fresh shellfish. On the label "Mothership" refers to the headquarters of the brewery, but I'd like to think that it also gives a little love to Parliament Funkadelic.

The best way to replicate the flavor of a Mothership Wit is to eat an orange wedge and then drink chai tea.

After cooking, the crabs took on a nice red color, and I also had two pounds of snow crab legs warming up in the oven (unlike boiling or steaming, this is the least messy and easiest way to heat up frozen crab legs--just throw them on a cookie sheet at 350ºF for 15-20 minutes).

To clean and eat the blue crabs, check out one of the many online tutorials. Some even have video. And while the meat is sweeter and more tender than anything else you can get this far from the coast, it's tricky to extract all of it. It's one of those skills that only gets better with practice: crab lovers along the Chesapeake Bay can easily dismantle one in under a minute.

The title of this post is a reference to the scientific name for the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus or "Beautiful swimmer - savory". It's also the name of a great book on the crab, its history, and the impact on the Bay, Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay by William W. Warner.


Dirty said...

Blue Crabs, Beer and P-Funk. What could be better?!

Benito said...

We gonna turn this mother out, Dirty.

Samantha Dugan said...

That looks so good...snipped off limb and all, and great tip on the frozen king crab legs, we always just toss them on the grill to heat through but the oven is a lot easier to deal with.

Big Mike said...

Crabs and Beer!!
Sounds like a 60's porn movie, or the results of one anyway.
Another great post my friend