Saturday, January 09, 2010

Crustacean Celebration: The Loveliest Words

There are two words that are music to my ears, that send me into reveries of feasts gone by, of sand and salt and sea, and those two words are "crab feed." We were fortunate to have two of these fĂȘtes du crabes over the holidays, one here at the house and the other at our friends Kathryn and Jeff's home.

Ours was pretty simple, starting with the ceremonial covering of the table with newspaper, the better to share amusing tidbits during the meal. Then each person claimed a pre-cooked, pre-cleaned crab from the pile and set to work with the various implements of destruction we provided, including hammers, nutcrackers and pliers.

Note to those considering hosting a crab feed: It's important to have fewer implements than guests in order to promote sharing and/or grabbing and/or whining over who's hogging the tools. We also provided a salad bowl full of chopped romaine, a pitcher of thousand island dressing, lots of lemons, a loaf of Dave's bread and libations aplenty.

At the second feed, Kathryn and Jeff had the table covered with newspapers when we arrived, but they'd decided to take the extra step of cooking the crabs themselves in large pots of water boiling away on the stove. Most of the guests adjourned to the living room with the wine, the better to ignore the screaming of the crabs as they were boiled alive.

Cooked this way, I have to say that the meat was slightly fresher-tasting than the precooked ones we'd had so far. You do have to deal with cleaning them, though it's a really simple task, since the shell basically pops off with a slight tug and it's easy to scrape off the gills and rinse out the ochre-colored tamale under running water.

The Caesar they made to go with the crab was reminiscent (and maybe even better) than the one I remember from Zefiro (to which I've compared all subsequent Caesars) and was a nice choice to have with the sweet crab meat. And I'm thinking we might just need to reprise this dinner in the new year before the season completely passes us by.

Check out these other examples of the crabby-licious goodness that is the Crustacean Celebration at GoodStuffNW: pasta with crab and radicchio; hot artichoke and crab dip; crab crostini; killer crab cakes; and Beach Cioppino.

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