This past weekend, I traveled down to the bottom of the New Jersey shoreline (aka “The Jersey Shore”) to my friend’s home right near the ocean. We were almost as far as Delaware and therefore, blue crabs were all the talk. The crabs were in abundance, but also in demand, so we had to search various fish stores and eventually wait until the next boat came in with crabs, at which point we snatched up a few dozen. Once we had the crabs, the preparations for the feeding frenzy were underway.
First, my friend John very gingerly took each crab out of the bag and rather than cruelly dunking them into a pot of boiling water and letting the crab die a tortured, slow death, he ripped the back shells off with his bare hands and cleaned their insides out with running water and his fingers-a much nicer form of crabicide! I know this sounds inhumane, but they die instantly and we’re killing them one way or another, right? Kidding aside, boiling the crabs drains them of their flavor and pre-cooks them which means you can easily err and overcook your dish by the time you add them to the the second heat of the saute pan. I asked him exactly how he did it and here’s what he said:
“You can either A) put an ice pick or a thin knife through the crab at the tip of
the tail that resides underneath the crab when it is upside down. The tip is
your point of entry or..B) Use a knife to lift the tail from the bottom of
the crab. Turn the crab right side up. Hold the crab with one hand from
either back leg. If you hold from the back leg they cannot reach back to claw
you. Then with one hand holding the base of the back leg, thumb over top like
a lever and you rip up the tail and back or shell of the crab. Lifting from
the opposite back side of shell from the leg you are holding and torque it in
opposite direction. The shell will lift off the crab and kill them instantly.
The twitching of the legs is only the nerves so do not be concerned.”
Twitching? Let’s move on…As soon as he cleaned them, he lined them up in a row with their beautiful blue claws sticking up.
Next, John’s mother Liz prepared the crabs for us to eat two different ways-one set with garlic and oil and parsley and one set cooked in a light tomato sauce. I preferred the tomato sauce but they were both delicious. We ate every last bit of meat off those crabs, even swallowing a couple of shells.
To make the Blue Crabs with Red Sauce, you would start by making a basic marinara sauce with loads of fresh, chopped garlic and crushed tomatoes. Stew this for a little while and add fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste. Add the crabs to the sauce and let them simmer for a bit, stirring now and again. You do not need to submerge the crabs in the sauce. Once the crabs lose their blue color and turn pink, they should cook another 5 minutes.
For the Blue Crabs with Olive Oil and Garlic, you would saute several cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil. Once translucent, add 1/2 cup of dry white wine (optional) and the crabs, with a handful of fresh chopped parsley and salt and pepper. Stir the crabs until the blue claws turn to pink and then cook five minutes more.