ALL ABOUT CRAB SEASON + CRISPY SPICED CRAB CAKES
I’ve previously expressed my undying love for crabs with this delicious recipe , and I just wanted to re-emphasize this love (ok…obsession!) with the fact that soft shell crab season is just around the corner. Crab is one of those delicate ingredients, sweet and flaky, but can take on so many different preparations - deep-frying, pan-frying, baking, boiling, in a salad, soup, pasta, or rice dish. For me, the marriage of crab with spices and butter is absolute heaven!!
Here are a bunch of crab recipes to experiment with along with my favorite, crispy, spiced crab cakes!
Even though we are able to have crabs all year round, the soft shell crab is one of the varieties that has a true farming season (mid May - September, depending on the temperatures of the water). During this time, the blue crab is molting its shell in order to grow in to a new, larger one. When the crab loses (pretty much ejects itself from) its shell, they have to be taken out of the water immediately and harvested before they begin to grow their new, hard shell…you know the one that takes forever to crush and get to the juicy, delicious meat.
As with most shellfish, it’s best to purchase live and take home immediately. Taking home a lobster and throwing in a pot of boiling water, or (gasp) sticking a knife in the head before throwing in said boiling water is a whole lot easier (in the sense of being humane and having less guilt) than cutting off the face of the soft shell crab, ripping out the gills from behind the face and then removing the apron on the underside of the crab….you tell me! But, if you are adventurous in your cooking and you choose to tackle this task, this is a great step by step for cleaning them at home (and good luck to you, I will continue to have my local fishmonger clean them for me…thanks!).
I will never forget when I was vacationing in Hawaii having dinner at this completely ordinary looking restaurant and ordering a variety of sushi, one of which was a crab roll. Crab roll - what comes to mind? The fake crab meat that's good...but not great. When the food arrived, the crab roll was ridiculous, not to mention all the other sushi! I’m talking fresh, amazing, shredded snow crab meat explosion wrapped in seaweed. My mouth is watering just thinking about this meal again. If you have the chance to experience fresh, just caught snow crab you should definitely jump at the chance. This recipe is a delicious, simple way to enjoy the legs as well.
Unfortunately, due to this crazy weather we have been having this year (thanks El Nino), Dungeness crab season has had a late start on the West coast. The season finally kicked off at the end of March and ends in June. I love the sweetness of this crab meat - it complements different flavors so well and also is just perfect on its own with a bit of drawn butter.
Stone crabs are one of my favorite types, and especially since I found out how they are harvested. The crabs are caught and one claw is removed and then the bodies thrown back in the water to regrow their claws (allowing it to have one to fend off predators). How amazing! As with most crab legs, these are great just steamed with a great mustard sauce or clarified butter.
CRAB CAKES WITH MUSTARD SEEDS & PARSNIPS
Serves 4-6; Yields 15 to 16 crab cakes
1 medium parsnip, peeled and cut into a medium dice
2-3 tablespoons canola oil plus more for frying
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
8 curry leaves (optional)
1 large shallot, finely minced
1-2 red and/or green chiles, finely chopped (ex. red jalapeno, jalapeno, thai)
3 - 4 garlic cloves
1 pound jumbo lump or lump crabmeat, drained and picked through for any shells
¾ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
handful of fresh herbs (chives, cilantro, parsley), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter for frying
kosher salt to taste
In a medium pot, cover parsnips with cold water by about 1 inch. Bring up to a boil and cook for 6-8 minutes until fork tender. Drain and pass through a ricer (best) or mash with a potato masher and let cool.
While the parsnips are cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves if using, and, when they start to pop, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallots, chili and garlic. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes until the shallots are translucent, remove and let cool.
In a medium bowl, combine crab with the pureed parsnips, the shallot mixture, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper and herbs. Form into 2 ¼ inch patties and let chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
In a large sauté pan, heat 1/8” of oil with 1 tablespoon of butter. Fry each crab cake 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown and removed to a papertowel-lined plate to drain.
Finish crab cakes with a sprinkle of salt as soon as they are out of the oil and serve hot.
Freezing: These guys freeze really well, and I love to make a double batch to keep some on hand for a quick weeknight meal. Just let them thaw for a few hours in the fridge before frying up!