Taste Test: Blue Crabs
Growing up, late spring-early summer meant Sunday dinners with the family turned from rib roasts and stews to boiled Blue Crabs. My mom's side of the family hails from Louisiana, so instead of the more commonly known Maryland-style steamed crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning, our's are boiled in Zatarain's extra spicy crab boil. I was never a fan of crabs as a kid. Even with the spices, their briny taste was too strong for me. As my family would gorge themselves on whole villages of Blue Crabs, I would sit there eating chicken or shrimp. Like a loser. As time went on, I learned the joys of eating a crunchy fried softshell crab and crab cakes. Eventually, I was eating Singaporean chili crab and black pepper crab like it was nobody's business. Now I'm back in America eating however many Dungeness and Blue crabs you can throw at me.
We made an early morning trip to Seafood City after receiving a call from our man inside that a small batch of crabs were delivered. Seafood City is a wonderland of Asian ingredients with a much more raw feeling (and smell) than Global Foods. I followed my mom to the crab pit and watched as she and a few others plucked out the best looking crabs they could see and threw them into plastic bags. I would have offered to help her, but I had my camera in one hand and laziness in my other, so I just watched. Ten minutes later and crab picking was over. We loaded the crabs into a box and headed out. Pro tip: bring a cooler with you to put the crabs in. There's nothing worse than the smell they can leave in your car if one escapes and drags its stinky body on the carpet.
As far as I saw, the recipe was simple. Water, Zatarain's extra spicy crab boil and a lemon. Toss all that in a large pan and bring it to a boil. Prepare yourself for coughing and burning eyes, as that stuff is like making mace at home. Toss in the crabs, boil for a few minutes, then leave in the covered pan another 15-20 minutes. If your significant other is a fan of crabs, this is an easy way to make an impressive looking and tasting dish.
If you've eaten whole crabs before, you know that the eating part is a messy, filthy event. Fluids, shells and crab meat fly around the table uncontrollably. I think the most appropriate eating attire would be the Patrick Bateman raincoat from American Psycho. The crabs were succulent and juicy with a real kick from the Zatarain's.
This was an unusually early batch of crabs, a welcome sign that St. Louis' brutal winter may be coming to a close. Thank god.