It is Dungeness crab season on the coast; try not to feel too guilty. While friends and family suffer through winter storms throughout the country, January can be one of the best months for weather here. As they try to keep warm, many people in Half Moon Bay are thinking about fresh crab and all of the wonderful ways to serve and eat it.
Hugo Tapia, who works at the , says crab is great just plain, especially when it’s hot. Another option is to add some fresh lemon or hot sauce. Rick Dorin of New Mexico was visiting his parents and was at the Princeton Seafood Company buying crab again. This was his fourth trip in one week. He likes to eat his crab cold with chili sauce to which he adds lemon and a drop of Worcestershire sauce. Of course, there’s always the old standby of melted butter, too.
You can buy live, uncooked crab from the fishermen right off their boats at Johnson Pier at Pillar Point Harbor. Or go to seafood stores in the area (e.g. Princeton Seafood Company at Pillar Point Harbor or the near the intersection of Main St. and Highway 92). Remember to bring a cooler; they usually provide ice.
If you'd rather have the crab cooked for you, it is possible to buy crab from fishermen off their boats or from a tank at the store, and have it cooked for you. Many fish/seafood stores such as the Princeton Seafood Company will cook your crab for a nominal fee.
Most fish stores and even local grocery stores will sell pre-cooked crab. Because of the high demand, the crab doesn’t sit around for too long and is usually very fresh. To make life even easier, ask for it to be cleaned and cracked.
If you don’t have it cracked and cleaned at the store, take your crab outside with some newspaper and a mallet. This is a better option since it keeps the juices and shells from flying around the house; the newspaper provides easy clean-up.
If you are making a dish like cioppino, you will not need to remove the crab from its shell. For most other recipes, the meat needs to be removed first. This step requires patience but is worth it. Invest in some seafood forks/picks to remove the meat from the shell. Put on some music, set a bowl in front of you, and get to work. Removing the meat takes the most time, but you will appreciate it when you are done.
Tapia says most crabs right now are about 1 ½ - 2 lbs each. A whole crab will yield about 3/4 - 1 cup of meat so plan on buying one crab per person, unless you are serving it in a dish with other seafood (like cioppino).
Why not enjoy some local seafood and support the fishermen at the same time? Whether you are visiting from afar or live right here, there’s something for everyone. Enjoy the recipes and please leave comments if you like them!
Quick and Easy Cioppino Recipe
Crab Saffron Risotto with Peas
This might not be light, but it is tasty. It would pair well with a dry white wine.
4 cups of organic chicken, seafood or vegetable broth
1 Tbl Olive oil
2-3 shallots, chopped (or onion)
¼ - ½ tsp pepper
Few pinches of saffron (if you don’t like or don’t have saffron, it is optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp salt
1/2 cup sherry or white wine
1 cup of Arborio rice
1 cup frozen peas, slightly thawed
1-2 large cooked Dungeness crabs, meat removed
1 Tbl butter (optional)
1. In a medium pan, heat broth to simmering.
2. Heat large pot to medium heat, add olive oil and add chopped shallots, pepper and saffron threads. Cook until onion is translucent and golden. Add garlic and salt; cook 1 minute.
3. Add rice, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add sherry and cook until evaporated.
4. Begin to add hot chicken broth, 1/2 – 1 cup at a time (enough to cover the rice). Stir every few minutes and add more broth when needed. Make sure rice is simmering but not boiling. Check after 20 minutes or when broth is used up. If you need more liquid, just add hot water.
5. Add peas and stir. Cook for 3 minutes or until heated through.
6. Add crab meat and stir. For a rich flavor, add butter at the end. If risotto seems flat, add 1/2 tsp more salt.
Garlicky Crab Pasta
This dish comes together very quickly once the crab has been removed from the shell. Have all of the ingredients ready to go and dinner will be ready in a snap.
8 oz pasta like spaghetti, linguine or ravioli
3-4 garlic cloves (use more if you want)
1 Tbl unsalted butter
1 large cooked Dungeness crab, meat removed
½ teaspoon sea salt
Optional: crushed red pepper
Optional: juice of ½ lemon
1. Cook pasta. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the garlic sauce. Make sure to reserve about a ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid in case the pasta gets sticky.
2. Add butter to a medium sauté pan and heat to medium. Once butter is frothy, add garlic and stir. If you don’t want your garlic toasted, remove from the heat.
3. Cook for 1-2 minutes then add crab to heat through. Keep heat on low.
4. Once pasta is cooked, toss with the sauce. Use the reserved cooking liquid to loosen the pasta if necessary. If you like your crab spicy, add the crushed red pepper and/or lemon and enjoy!