Monday, January 14, 2008

In The Kitchen: Cooking With Live Crab, Part I (Cleaning)

I finally got around to making that cooking demo on how to kill and clean a live Dungeness crab. This, as some of you might recall, was something I had planned to do last year until I ran into a feisty crab who pinched my finger (making two puncture wounds) and totally threw my game off for filming. (I still ate him though, the bastard.)

It’s not like I find pleasure in killing live animals (and again, PETA, please don’t write me). I just believe certain food like seafood tastes best when fresh. And nothing gets fresher than killing a crab right before you cook it.

Most people who are willing to buy a live crab for the freshness will only end up dropping the whole thing into a pot of boiling water. While this works, you’re basically cooking the crab with all the innards and junk inside. So I choose to clean the crab before cooking it (which is what most Chinese cooks will do) to avoid messing up my cooking water with intestines and such. Gosh, this post is really getting gory.

For those who buy their Dungeness crab pre-cooked, you’re losing out on really moist succulent meat because even though some supermarkets say they got the crab that morning and cooked it, you really don’t know if that crab has been sitting around since the day before. (Crab meat begins to dry out after cooking, and even more so sitting in those refrigerated counters.) So why not cook it yourself? It’s actually a few simple steps (despite what you’ll see at one point as I struggle to remove the hard shell).

So today’s demo is focused on just the killing and cleaning part of cooking with a live Dungeness crab. My crab wasn’t as feisty this time because I actually bought him at the Richmond New May Wah Supermarket on Clement Street in San Francisco. So that meant more than an hour ride by Muni and BART back to my Oakland apartment. (You should have seen all the stares I got when people noticed my paper bag moving. Ha!) By the time I got home, the crab was pretty lethargic from being out of the water for so long. Still, at least it was fresh!

Come back tomorrow when we feature the good part—my demo on cooking the crab in a simple garlic wine recipe.

NOTE: Dungeness crab season in the Bay Area lasts until June, but most of the crabs are caught—and therefore more plentiful—early in the season in November. This year the season was delayed because of the massive oil spill in the Bay. Learn more about the season and crabs in the Bay Area in my previous post on crab fisherman Duncan MacLean.


Anonymous said...

Chef Ben, LOL that poor crab was pretty apathetic by the time you started filming! I agree that the freshness of a pre-cooked crab is very unreliable and definitely prefer fresh cooked, but geez, I am such a wimp that I don't know if I could whack it to knock it out and then pull its head off like that! Whew, although watching it when you sliced it in half was strangely fascinating. Great video though, very informative...

Nate @ House of Annie said...

we usually put our crabs in the freezer to make them sleepy, then steam them so the flavor isn't boiled out.

Anonymous said...

great video of how to kill live crab...thank you! and btw, you are too cute to not promote your face in your main picture on your blog! your vegetables are blocking my view!