After many delays the local Commercial Dungeness crab is open, this is a key element in crab feed fundraising events, often set in Jan. and Feb.. Unless you are a crab fisher or know someone that is (a valuable friend) the only access to fresh Dungeness has been imported crab from Washington and Oregon offered in retail markets.
Should you buy or are gifted a live crab they are cooked simply by dropping them into boiling saltwater, waiting for a boil to return, and then allowing it to continue for 15 minutes, after which time the crabs are removed and placed into cold water to cool and then cleaned. Another method of preparing crab is called half backing. Half backing is done by flipping the crab upside down and chopping it in half (from head to tail), after which the guts and gills can be scooped or hosed out. Many consider half backing to be superior to cooking the entire crab, because the meat is not contaminated by the flavor or toxins of the guts. Furthermore, half backed crabs boil faster or for more flavor retention, can be quickly steamed instead of boiled. Two common tools for removing crab meat from the shell are a crab cracker and a shrimp fork. Sometimes, a cleaver mallet, or small hammer is used for cracking Dungeness crab, but the use of these devices is not recommended, as the integrity of the meat may be compromised due to the impact, not to mention tiny fragments of rock-hard shell getting in your Crab Louie. In any case watch out for the pincers of the live specimen.
Dungeness crab is the state crustacea of Oregon. One wonders what the state crab of California might be. Perhaps the less appetizing Pediculosis pubis, a parasitic insect that can infest the coarse hairs of human’s crabs. Often contracted by using shared sleeping bags or wearing unwashed used clothing. Should San Francisco adopt a ‘city’ crustacea, the Pediculosis pubis would win hands down.