By: Elizabeth Webber Akre
I love to crab, which is good because I also love to eat crab. I’ve crabbed in the surf, in a boat, in the creek, from a pot, off the rocks. I know a good crab when I see one, so don’t even try to talk to me about crab with a “k,” surimi, or whatever else people try to pass off as crab. I’ll eat, and enjoy, Alaskan crab but it’s just not in the same league as a “real” crab: the blue crab that adorns our waters here in the South and all up and down the East Coast.
My sister and I are probably the only people you’ll meet who will say that we actually enjoy picking crab. We learned as kids and as we moved into adulthood, it became a peaceful end-of-the-beach-day ritual for us. Get showered up, pour a glass of white wine and sit out on the balcony picking crab in the breeze.
Most people complain about blue crabs because they aren’t easy to deal with. Cleaning, cooking and then picking them is indeed a task. But the reward of fresh, creamy, milky crabmeat is well worth it. My mom (a Floridian) actually ices them down, which puts them to sleep. Then, she cleans them while they’re still alive. I know, I know, this sounds horrific. However, us biology geeks know that crabs really only operate off a “nerve net,” not an actual brain, so there is no suffering involved here. This way, we cook the cleaned crabs and there’s no spongy, foamy garbage left inside the body, which is just grosser than gross.
BUT…there’s always a but, right? No one likes dealing with the claws. They are a pain in the rump, frankly. But, it’s hard for us to waste anything, so we freeze them assuming we’ll deal with them one day.
Well, my parents have had crab claws in their freezer for a few months now and it’s been driving my dad crazy. He keeps planning the day to put them in the trash (the night before pick up because crab in a can on a hot day=horror movie) and then that day comes and goes and he realizes that he forgot to put them out there.
Not long ago, I was watching the Food Network when one of Maryland’s big time crab cakes places mentioned that they use the claw meat in the crab cakes and save the lump meat for more sophisticated dishes. AH HA! I had the answer!
Fast forward to September. I took the claws off my dad’s hands. I put together one gallon sized Ziploc of claws, which gave me about 1/2 pound of meat. I’d never used the claw meat in a cake, so I was really curious to see how it turned out. I made a basic cake…tore 2 slices of bread (crust removed) into small pieces, moistened with milk, then mixed with fresh parsley, some mayo, worchestershire, Old Bay, salt, baking powder and an egg. I refrigerated the mixture to firm it a bit. I then shaped it into cakes and pan-fried it. That little 1/2 pound of crab yielded 6 AWESOME crab cakes for our dinner tonight.
Here’s where I brag about the wunderkid again: When I told her we were having crab cakes for dinner, her reaction was “really? I love it, love it, love it, love it!” Imagine her reaction when I told her I’d also made homemade peach ice cream for dessert? It was rockin’ good.