It’s the middle of November. In the Bay Area, do you know what that means?
That’s right, boys and girls, it’s Dungeness crab season! Dungeness crab, or Cancer majister is a large crab found on the West Coast from Alaska down to California. About one quarter of the crab is sweet, succulent crab meat, making it one of the meatiest crabs around.
Growing up in Hawaii, we used to eat these Dungeness crabs every once in a while. They were already boiled and frozen by the time we got them from the supermarket. Then we boiled them some more to reheat them (little did we know that we were boiling the flavor right out of them!)
Here in the Bay Area, we can get Dungeness crab live in the tank from the Asian grocery stores. They go for about $3 a pound, with the price fluctuating depending on availability and demand. Dungeness crab is a tradition in Bay Area households around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so prices tend to shoot up then.
Put ‘Em to Sleep
First thing that we do after bringing the crabs home is to stick them in the freezer for a few hours. I learned this trick from Alton Brown in the Good Eats lobster episode. The crabs get sleepy and don’t put up much of a fight when you put them in the pot. Trust me on this, you don’t want to be fighting an ornery crab, trying to get it in the pot with a slippery pair of tongs!
Now, we want to cook the Dungeness crabs by steaming them, not boiling. I have a large stock pot with a steamer basket insert that I use for this purpose. Put enough water in the pot to come up just to the level of the basket and get the water boiling.
When the water is about to boil, bring the crabs out of the freezer and rinse them off. Put the Dungeness crabs in the pot kinda sideways – that’ll make it easier to get ‘em out of the pot later. Cover the pot and set the timer for 18 minutes.
Old Bay Seasoning
In the past, we’ve not added any flavorings or seasonings to the pot when steaming the crabs. But we just got this can of Old Bay Seasoning, and so decided to use it on our Dungeness crabs. They actually have a recipe on their website for Steamed Dungeness crabs. It calls for adding half water and half vinegar to the pot, then sprinkling a half cup of Old Bay on top of the crabs before steaming.
Sprinkling Old Bay Seasoning on Steaming Dungeness Crabs
It smelled really good while it was cooking! 18 minutes later, I pulled them out and set them aside to cool.
Steamed Dungeness Crabs with Old Bay Seasoning
When they were cooled, Annie cleaned the Dungeness crabs by pulling the body away from the shell, removing the gills and guts, and chopping the body section into quarters. Then we brought the chopped crabs to the table and the whole family got down to business. Nothing was heard at the table except shells cracking, lips smacking, and the occasional, “Mmmmm!”
The saltiness of the Old Bay Seasoning accentuated the sweetness of the Dungeness crab meat. I also picked up on the wonderful celery seed and bay leaf flavors which added a new dimension to the crab. Then the black and red peppers gave a really nice heat that left my lips tingling. How come I never thought to use Old Bay on Dungeness crab before?
I’m looking forward to using Old Bay Seasoning in other recipes as well!