Sunday, December 05, 2010

Crustacean Celebration: And They're Off!

I can't believe how excited I was for crab season to start this year. After last year's marathon Crustacean Celebration, the countdown to the start of the season was excruciating. Because of dickering over prices that crabbers would receive and conflicting results of test for something called meat fill, it was possible that the season could be delayed for as long as two weeks.

But when I went to the northern Oregon coastal town of Seaside on Thursday and stopped in at the shrine to crabbiness that is the Bell Buoy (left), they had freshly caught crabs aplenty. My friend Michel and I whipped up a fresh crab salad with some romaine, slivered fennel and a lemon vinaigrette and dove in. Supplemented by a loaf of Dave's wonderful homebaked sourdough and a glass (or two) of rosé, its sweet, slightly salty meatiness was the perfect, simple start to a season of indulgence.

I came back home to the news that the crabs had organized themselves into a group called the Dungeness Crab Commission and, in a stroke of brilliance, got themselves certified by none other than the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as a sustainably managed fishery. Meaning that it's one of only three crab fisheries in the world to put the MSC label (right) on its products, and the only one of the five Dungeness fisheries (CA, OR, WA, B.C., AK) along the West Coast to be certified. Those are some crazy smart crabs!*

I'd purchased two more whole crabs on the way out of Seaside, determined to whip up an appropriately crabby dinner for the troops at home. Pulling out a recipe from last year and, hewing to the original intent (i.e. keeping it crabby), I made a few modifications and was rewarded with the oohs and aahs of satisfied diners.

If you have favorite crab dishes that you put together for your troops (or even just yourself), please share them in the comments below. It's looking like we're in for another banner year!

Pasta with Crab and Radicchio
Adapted from Tyler Florence, the Food Network

2 Dungeness crabs, approx. 1 lb. each
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. finely chopped shallots
2 Tbsp. finely minced garlic
2 whole Mexican hot red chiles
1 c. rosé
1 lb. pasta
1 small head radicchio, thinly sliced into chiffonade
Juice of 1 lemon, straining out the pulp and seeds
Finely grated parmesan or, for a nice change, extra-sharp cheddar for sprinkling

Bring 6 quarts water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.

Pull carapace off of cooked crabs (the large red outer shell). Under running water, clean off all the gills until you're left with the hard shell of the body beneath. I normally rinse out the "tamale" or ochre-colored bits that some people consider a delicacy (you can have them cleaned by your fishmonger if this is all too real). Remove the meat from the cleaned crab and collect in medium-sized bowl.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil until smoking. Add the shallots, garlic and chiles and sauté until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil. Cook the pasta in pot of boiling water according to the package instructions, until just al dente, and drain.

Remove the whole chiles from the wine sauce. Add the drained pasta to the pan with the wine mixture and return pan to heat. Add crab and radicchio and toss briefly until radicchio is slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Pour the lemon juice over the top. Pour into a warm serving bowl, sprinkle with the cheese and serve.

* Seriously, the Dungeness Crab Commission is an industry-funded agency tasked with "enhancing" the Dungeness crab industry.

Check out this season's Crustacean Celebration series: The Big Boys Weigh In, Deadly? I Think Not, Let Them Eat Cakes, Parallel Universe and last season's series starting with Hot Artichoke and Crab Dip (and links to other posts in the series).


Em Hutto said...

I'm salivating. Seafood pasta is high on my list of favorite dishes.

Have you ever grubbed on the seafood in Florence, Oregon? I believe the town catches some of the state's best.

KAB said...

We did, actually! We were camping at Honeyman state park and got into town a couple of times and found some great seafood spots.