Saturday, 1 February 2014

How To Cook And Prepare A Fresh Crab

Down at the beach the other day a local fisherman gave us a Blue Crab which he had caught in his fishing net. The crab was still alive although it had no legs on one side of its body as these had been pulled off during the process of untangling it from the fishing net.

We had never had the chance to cook a fresh crab before so decided to give it a go.  You don't very often see crabs big enough to eat here and when you do they are quite expensive to buy so this was a good opportunity.

As I had to look up how to cook and prepare the crab firstly we gave it a good rinse under the tap to remove the sand and then immersed it in some cold water in the sink to keep it alive.

Here you can see that the crabs body was about the size of my husbands hand.

To cook the crab you need to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  There needs to be enough water in the pot that the crab will be in a bit of depth when put in.

Once the water comes to a boil carefully lower the crab into the water so as not to splash yourself. The water should then come back up to the boil, depending on the size of the crab allow between 10 to 15 minutes for cooking.  The crab will be cooked once it starts to float on the surface, this is why you need to have sufficient depth of water.

Once the crab has cooked use tongs to remove the crab and transfer to a plate to cool enough to handle, you can speed this process up by running the crab under cold water.  You will see that the colour of the crab has changed to an orange colour.

The first thing we need to do is remove the 'apron' from the underside of the crab, this will help to then separate the body from the shell.  The apron also helps you identify the sex of the crab.  On the female, which this one is the apron looks dome shaped, on a male it is much narrower.  Firmly hold the crab in one hand, with the other hand place your finger under the pointed bit at the top of the dome and pull the apron away from the body.  As you start to remove the apron, liquid will start to pour from the crab, this is called 'crab butter' and can be saved to be used to dip bread into or to pour over the prepared crab.  If you want to do this make sure you hold the crab over a container to catch the liquid.  The apron can be discarded.

Here you can see that the apron has been removed and we now have a hole which will help us to remove the shell.  Again hold tightly on to the crab with one hand and with the other use the hole to help you hold onto the shell and pull the body away from the shell.

If you want to keep the shell to serve the crab meat in, put it to one side to be cleaned out.

We now need to remove the 'gills' or 'dead man's fingers'.  There are five of these gills on either side of the crab, they can easily be pulled off and discarded.

The next things to remove are the two mandibles, found at the front of the crab, which they use to scoop water into their mouths.  Again these easily pull off and can be discarded.

At this point it would be a good idea to give the crab a gentle wash under running water to remove any loose bits and pieces, including any gut that is still in the crab.  When you have finished all that should be left in the body is the crab meat still firmly attached.

Next split the crab body down the middle to give you to halves.

It is then a case of pulling out the crab meat from the body, the meat is in small compartments separated by a thin membrane, a bit like the structure of a pomegranate, so it is best to use your fingers to pull out the meat so you can feel the membranes, which should be discarded.

Next job is to remove the legs which again easily break off.  Put these to one side as we will have a look and see it there is any meat in them, although with this type of crab the legs are a lot thinner than most other crabs.

To get to any meat in the legs use scissors to cut the skin to be able to pull out the meat.

As you will see in the next picture, you get very little meat from one of these crabs, the dish in front is the edible meat, the plate behind is the waste, so you will need at least a couple of crabs per person.

The crab meat should be served with a lemon wedge to squeeze over and a sprinkling of chopped parsley and some fresh crusty bread.  Don't forget that you can clean out the shell and serve the crab meat in that.

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