Getting crabby

I was doing some shopping at Rome’s Piazza Vittorio market a few weeks ago and came across the sale of live crabs.  Live crabs may be a normal feature in some parts of the world, such as Granville Market in Vancouver, which is where I first saw Dungeness crabs and got all excited about them, but where I live south of Rome, crabs have an almost exotic feel about them.  Crabs are not very Roman, if you get my drift, and you’d have to go up to Venice to find them or ‘granseole’ as they are called.

Maybe it was the happy memories of a gorgeous holiday with our Canadian friends, and actually fishing for crabs one day not far from one of those pristine Gulf islands off the coast of Vancouver, that prompted me to want to buy crabs that day in Rome.  My friend S. cooked them to perfection and, to be honest, it didn’t look like a lot of work … so … why not? I said to myself and before I knew it, I’d bought three of them.  They looked nice and big and meaty and I was looking forward to their succulence.

1 They were still moving about when I took them home.  Here is a peep of them, still inside the plastic bag.  I googled about on how to cook Dungeness crab … and basically followed the instructions.  Here is the link, if you are interested:

2 Hot water with some salt in it …3 Plunge the crabs in when the water starts simmering …4 Cook for … I can’t remember now, to be honest, but I reckon something like 15 minutes.

5 And then remove the crabs and plunge them into a tub with ice-cold water in it.6 When they were cool, I put them on a platter … just to admire them.7 8 Aren’t they pretty?  And now it was time to work and get on with opening them and removing the flesh etc.  I was feeling all aglow with expectation.

And that’s when the first disappointment set in … these crabs might have been big … but their content wasn’t … no, nothing like the content of Dungeness crabs.9 Here are the carapaces I removed …10 And here, basically, is what one gets to eat.  And that means AFTER one has teased the flesh out of the crustaceans.  Ha!  This is when I stamped my foot and sighed and berated myself for giving in so easily to my temptations (why? why why why was I tempted by crab that day?  What in the world induced me?).11 I asked Madilina for help.  She has a good attitude with me and my feebleness — nothing loath, she shrugs her shoulders, mutters something about it not being a problem, and just gets on with it.  No hysteria there.  I, in the meantime,  had drawn any and all implements I could think of to remove the flesh from the crabs.  These included, and you can see them in the photo, an oyster shucker (that green thing on the left), a nutcracker, a rolling pin, and a knive for crustaceans, oooh yes, and some chopsticks for good measure.  What you see on the oval plate, above, is what we managed to extract from three crabs …

12 And this is what we threw away … In other words, there was more volume in what we thre away than in what we retained.13I hastily prepared some home-made mayonnaise and added the crab meat to it.  I placed the bowl in the fridge … and served it as hors d’oeuvres for my friends who came to dinner that evening who were gracious and polite enough to drool over it.  Me?  All I could think of was all that work …. all that work! Never again!  Not unless we are talking about Dungeness crab.

The following are photographs I took of my friend S. preparing Dungeness crab in the Summer of 2011.  Enjoy!

1234567Please note my friend’s approach to cooking … such class … “with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes”!

And this is what we ate … with gusto and lots of slurping –but no burping (sorry I’m in one of my making-everything-rhyme moments).  In conclusion, allow me just one more reason to digress and that is to say that … it’s a mess, unless it’s Dungeness.9

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About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
This entry was posted in Antipasti, Basic Techniques, Fish and seafood, Recipes from outside Italy, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Getting crabby

  1. – Great post! I do like crab. However, I worked in a crab factory in Plymouth in Devon years ago. Albeit for two and a half days – it was torture! All I had to do was to pinch their claws to prevent them fighting. Put me off crab for a long time.
    – I’ve never dressed one, even though I know how to. Not surprised your friends waxed lyrical, as I’m certain I would’ve done.

  2. Beautiful looking crabs! Getting the meat out of crabs is a lot of work… I would use the shells to make stock before throwing them away though.

    • Ciao Stefan … ssssssh don’t tell a soul but my freezer is chock-a-block full right now … and so I just wouldn’t have had room for anything else. I did enjoy the experience but … as you rightly say … a lot of work!!!! I can wait until I go to England and order dressed crab on the menu! A very happy Sunday to you!

  3. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we get lots of crabs (best in the winter) and we can get them at our super market. I love the yellow stuff (called the mustard) of the crab, so does our butcher (white guy) at the market. To the dismay of both of us, no one else wants them. When the crab is boiled fresh and cut for customers, my butcher saves the crab shells with the mustard intact and happily gives them to me for free. I dip them in ponzu (bottled Japanese lime sauce) and low sodium soy sauce and eat them with Japanese rice along side the meat (which is common in Japan). The crab mustard is also used in making some sauces. 😀 )))

  4. Sandy Grushcow says:

    Even though they aren’t Dungeness they look big for Italian crabs and I bet they were wonderfully tasty. Sorry I missed it but I bet I would have been busy cleaning those crabs had I been there. Love, Sandy

  5. Karen says:

    I leave whole crabs to others that are more talented than I am. I just buy lump crabmeat that the experts have picked. I’m sure your guests enjoyed the crab in your delicious homemade mayonnaise.

  6. Francesca says:

    Aren’t you courageous, Jo? Brava!!! 🙂

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