With the rush of warm weather we’ve been having the past few days, it’s clear that winter has run its course and spring has arrived, and in a big way. Along with the warm weather come thoughts of vacations from work, baseball season, good times with friends and family, and delicious outdoor meals. Of course no warm weather meal (or cold weather meal, or moderate weather meal) is complete without some mouth-watering seafood. Today we’re going to talk about some of the various varieties of fresh crabs that we carry for your eating pleasure at our Old Saybrook seafood market. When it comes to New England seafood, a lot of the attention and spotlight is often taken up by lobster, clams, and oysters, and while they are all deletable dining options, we feel that crabs are among the unsung heroes of the New England seafood world. Without any further ado, we will now get to work on introducing you to some of the best crab varieties that Atlantic Seafood has to offer.
First off, we’ll tell you a little about Dungeness Crab. Native to the Pacific Ocean off of the west coast of the United States, Dungeness Crabs get their name from the city of Dungeness, Washington. As a rather large crab, they typically are about 7 to 10 inches in width, with the largest ones usually coming from the more northern stretch of the west coast. However, Dungeness Crabs have also recently been appearing along the Atlantic coast as well. The Dungeness Crab features a hard and thick shell which contains what is often described as a very delicate and sweet tasting meat. Both the legs and the body section of the Dungeness Crab contain edible meat, with the leg meat being firm and white in color with a slight pink tinge, and with the body meat being of a more solid white color with a somewhat flaky consistency.1
The elegant taste of the Dungeness Crab has made it a big hit, as it is now widely considered the most important crab commercially within the United States. When it comes to cooking, the easiest and most popular tactic is to take the lobster route and simply boil them. Once boiled, all you have to do is crack open the shell, pick out the meat, and enjoy. As a general rule of thumb, larger Dungeness Crabs tend to have a higher meat-to-shell ratio1, so if you have someone with a big appetite on your hands, this is an important fact to remember. If you’re looking for the best Dungeness Crab in CT, look no further than Atlantic Seafood, as we stock this precious gem of an item regularly.
In addition to providing the shoreline with Dungeness Crab, we are also your top source for soft shell crabs in Connecticut. The term Soft Shell Crab can mean different things, based on what nation you’re in, but in the United States, it refers to the Blue Crab. More specifically, it refers to Blue Crabs who have recently molted (shed) their old shells and are only protected by a thin and delicate outer pseudo shell before the new and harder shell develops. The Soft Shell Crabs served here in the USA are most frequently found in the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay off the Maryland coast, though they are also frequently found within the Gulf of Mexico.
Sometimes referred to as “Swimmer Crabs”, Soft Shell Crabs are smaller and more agile than their larger cousins.2 When you extract their meat, you will see that it is nearly transparent and when you taste it, you’ll find that it has a very soft texture. Soft Shell Crabs are especially fresh, as they must be eaten within 4 days of molting to provide optimum flavor. Most parts of the shell are edible, and when eaten, it adds a mildly salty counter to the generally sweet taste of the meat inside. Some of the more popular ways to prepare Soft Shell Crabs are to sautee them in a pan or to deep fry them. If you’re planning to have some sauteed Soft Shell Crabs, you must be sure to continue cooking them until the shell achieves a light pink tone, otherwise they will not be fully ready for consumption.2
The last crab we’ll have you shake hands (claws?) with is the Atlantic Rock Crab. Most frequently found in coastal Maine waters, the Atlantic Rock Crab has an extended habitat range going as far north as Canada’s Labrador coast and as far south as the coastal waters off of South Carolina. A somewhat nomadic species, they can be found in waters as shallow as low-tide tidal pools on the beach or as deep as 2600 feet below sea level3. They possess a hard shell, but in terms of size, they are closer to the Soft Shell Crabs with a typical width of about five inches across.
Also known to residents of Maine as the “Peekytoe Crab”, the Atlantic Rock Crab, or Maine Crab is often caught along with lobsters are they share a similar diet and have the habit of getting themselves suckered into lobster traps by way of bait intended for lobsters. At one time, lobstermen found this to be a nuisance, but as of late, their value has been going up as many people are learning just how much of a true taste treat Atlantic Rock Crabs can be. Their taste is very similar to that of the Dungeness Crab and they are most plentiful during the summer months when lobster catchers are out in full force. With their sweet and mild taste, Atlantic Crab Meat is a desirable ingredient in many recipes, with the leg meat frequently being used alongside pasta, in casseroles, in soups, and just about anywhere else as well. The body is often boiled up separately in water to provide a delicious broth for seafood soups.3
1. Serving Oregon Dungeness Crab
Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, March 20, 2012
2. Blue Crabs: Catch ‘Em, Clean ‘Em, Cook ‘Em, Eat ‘Em
3. Crab, Jonah and Rock
Seafood Choices Alliance