Sunday, December 27, 2009
Pass the hot butter, raise a glass...
This year's crab season has already netted over 12,000 pounds of the crustaceans so far. Last year's entire catch was 13,000 pounds. The meat is excellent, and the animals are good sized. Even with a couple of big storms that destroy traps, this harvest appears to be outstanding. Though the season lasts until June, most of the catch occurrs in December and January.
The local economy will pick up, and it will have a domino effect. Tourists will eat at the local eateries, sleep at the local motels, and frequent gas stations and art galleries. Fresh crab is one reason for driving to the coast and spend a weekend at the beach, regardless of the weather.
Crab is quickly boiled in salted water spiced with peppercorns, bay leaves, cayenne pepper and other seasonings. It is served on newspapers or paper towels, where it is cracked open and pried with special tools. Side dishes include hot melted butter, potato salad, cole slaw, and beer. It takes patience to crack and remove the meat from the legs and body of the crustaceans. Cartilage must be cracked and peeled off, carefully separating the chambers that contain the succulent meat. Many people are worried about making a mess. No need. You'll have fun getting your hands messy, and feeding all of your senses.
Any left-overs can be used in chowders, crab cakes, salad toppings, even tacoes and baked pasta. My family enjoys chioppino, a fish stew with tomatoes and a variety of shell fish, including crab, enjoyed with a generous amount of crusty bread to soak up the juices. Our favorite beer for this occasion is Fat Tire. Sometimes, we'll have a King Estate Pinot Grigio, a Willamette Valley Oregon wine as good as the best of California's Napa Valley. Just not as expensive.
When you visit coastal towns, do partake of the local catch. You'll never have fresher fare, and you'll help the local economy, encouraging artisans and small producers to continue living in small towns.
Out of the way places teach us about the interconnectivity of all human endeavors.