Eating fresh steamed crabs with Old Bay, is a Maryland ritual. It isn’t for the feint of heart. Open one up, and you’ll wonder what gripped the first consumer to actually try it. Eat the gills, and you’ll get very sick, but the mixture of sweet and salty crab meat from “Sapidus Calanectes (e.g. Latin for Beautiful Swimmer, and better know as the “blue crab” found in the Chesapeake and Gulf of Mexico), and you’ll be hooked. Yeah, I know they are red now, but they were alive and kicking blue beauties for a while.
We’ve dragged “out of towners” to try them on occasion, but rarely do we see an appreciation for this delicacy. Too often we hear “too much work for me”, heard after smashing a claw to oblivion using the $1 mallet beginners rely on. For those who stick with it, a practiced local can get through a crab in 2-3 minutes.
That is alright (you impatient disbelievers), that is why most crab places have “chicken tenders” and cheese burgers on the menu. Or bring in a Happy Meal. More crabs for us … The problem is, now, they are exceptionally expensive, with a dozen at some restaurants going for $75 – $110 per dozen. Well, have I got a deal for you…
The Alternative to $75/Dozen…
Being in DC, we have exceptional Asian markets. Think Harris Teeter, Giant or Safeway, but with a way better seafood section at way better prices. So, don’t be a purist, buy the female crabs. I think they taste better, and are much less, typically going for $1 – $2 per pound. Load up on about 4-5 pounds ($8 – $10) and you have your dozen crabs. The ones in the picture are small females. We got two dozen for $24 at Great Wall in Rockville, Md. You’ll find similar deals at Lotte, or H-Mart in Gaithersburg. You’ll have to cook them yourself, though.
If you can boil water, you can cook a Crab…
- Crabs (6 – 8 per person)
- Old Bay or “Crab Boil” – Mixture of salt, celery seed, and paprika
- Vinegar (White or apple is fine) and/or
- Cheap Beer – I like Pabst Blue Ribbon as crab boil
- Put a good shake (1/4 cup or so) of Old Bay in a large (8 Quart or larger) pot.
- Add the contents of the Can of beer and/or a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water to the pot (you’ll want about 2-3 inches of liquid)
- Bring to boil (you’ll steam the crabs, not boil them) – So your goal is to create steam.
- Put in the crabs – Sorry folks, generally you boil them alive : (
- Put a good shake of Old Bay over the crabs.
- Put the lid on – You want to keep the steam in the pot. Let them steam for 5 – 10 minutes).
- You generally know they are done when they are completely bright red.
- Serve them on Butcher Paper or News Paper (I prefer the Washington Post)
- Provide a knife (to pop open the shell and to break the claws).
- Some also provide lemon, vinegar, melted butter to dip the meat in.