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How to Cook Maryland-Style Blue Claw Crabs
One of my favorite things about summer is the availability of blue claw crabs. Nothing captures the essence of the season like a steaming pot of crabs smothered in Old Bay seasoning. Add some locally grown corn on the cob, and an ice cold beer (or six) and I'm a happy man.
I usually go down to my boat and hang a crab trap over the side. After a few hours, I bring up the empty trap and head over to the local fish market to buy crabs.
Buy the largest crabs you can, even if that involves paying a premium. The difference in the amount of meat between medium and large crabs is well worth the additional price. The crabs must be alive and feisty. If you're buying crabs in a fish market, have them cleaned for you. When you get home, run them under cold water and remove any unsightly gunk (a technical term). If you've harvested them yourself you have two choices: Clean them or cook them whole. The safest way to clean live crabs is to put them in the refrigerator for about a half an hour. This will make them dormant. Even still, take care when handling them and keep your fingers away from the business end. Use a kitchen knife to pop the top shell from the crab, then remove the feathery lungs and miscellaneous viscera. Rinse under cold water.
Traditionally, crabs are steamed whole (and alive). This is fine, especially if you've managed to catch them yourself and don't want to risk your fingers. I prefer cleaned crabs, which are little easier to eat and I find that more of the seasonings work there way into the crab meat.
Cleaning a Live Crab
- 1 dozen live blue-claw crabs
- 1 cup of beer (plus many, many more for drinking)
- 1 cup of vinegar
- 3 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
I Came to Steam Caesar, Not to Braise Him
(Assuming that you've named your crabs and at least one of them is called Caesar)
We want to steam the crabs, so we need to keep them out of the cooking liquid. The best way is to use a steamer pot with a removable basket. If you don't have one, you can use an ordinary pot with a heat-proof cup or bowl on the bottom and a metal rack or screen resting on top, a few inches above the bottom of the pot.
Add equal parts beer and vinegar so there is an inch or so of liquid in the pot. I suggest you steam the crabs outdoors on a grill or side burner because boiling vinegar emits a pretty pungent aroma.
Layer the crabs in the basket or pot and coat each layer with a 50/50 mixture of Old Bay Seasoning and kosher salt.
If using a steamer pot, put the pot on the fire. Once the liquid comes to a boil, insert the basket, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. If using an ordinary pot, put the crabs on the fire and cook for about 15 minutes from the time you start to see steam. Steam until the crabs are red and cooked through.
Serve with grilled or boiled corn on the cob, coleslaw, and ice cold beer.