July 25, 2002
Steam ‘em. Broil ‘em. Bake ‘em. Pick ‘em. Stuff ‘em.
Whatever way they’re prepared, crabs are a summer favorite. And the reports about the dearth of crabs may not be as dire as they seem.
One of the most popular ways to eat crabs is steamed with Old Bay seasoning. This is how they’ll be served at the All-You-Can-Eat Crab Feast in conjunction with The Rotary Clubs of Alexandria West End, Mount Vernon, West Potomac and East Fairfax County.
John Sykes, president of the West Potomac Rotary Club, is helping to coordinate the event, and said that they selected Jessie Taylor Seafood from Maine Avenue to provide the crabs for this event. “The people who have coordinated the Pohick Crab Feast have used them and been very pleased with them,” said Sykes. Pohick Church has run a crab feast for the past few years and will hold it again in late September.
Sykes was a little concerned about the supposed shortage and high prices, but said that the workers at Jessie Taylor told him, “There’s no shortage of crabs.” Sykes was also told that late August was the best time for crabs, a fact he took into consideration when selecting the August 17 date.
Crab feast will be held from 2-5 p.m. at The Knights of Columbus Hall on 8592 Richmond Highway. Tickets are $25 and are available at Peking Duck Restaurant and Minuteman Press on Pickett Street. Price will include corn and cole slaw. Children under eight are free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Sykes is a New Englander and said that he prefers lobster, but likes eating crabs because it is a social thing. “You get dirty and drink beer,” he said.
Dick Freund is president of the Mount Vernon Rotary Club and said, “I think it’s neat that the three rotary clubs are working together. We’ll raise some money [for the local community] and have fun.” He said that local dignitaries have been invited, and several have accepted, including Dana Kauffman, Lee District Supervisor, Senator Patsy Ticer (D-30) and Sharon Kelso. Ticer will also atend the 35th Annual Mason District Democratic Crab Feast, which will be be in Falls Church on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The Rotary Clubs have negotiated a special price for bushels of cooked crabs, but prices in general are still fairly high. As of this week, prices at Jessie Taylor Seafood ranged from $18/dozen for cooked female crabs to $32/dozen for large cooked male crabs. Special prices were available for bushels and live crabs were slightly less expensive. At Pruitt’s Seafood, a dozen cooked male crabs cost $30, while a dozen cooked female crabs run $18. Their live crabs are less expensive as well, and they charge a cooking fee of $5 for a half bushel and $10 for a bushel.
CRAB FEASTS are a great social event, whether held at home or at one of the local crab houses. Crabs are steamed with Old Bay Seasoning and dropped in piles onto tables covered with brown paper. Mallets and picks are usually provided for picking the crab.
Unlike lobster where the meat comes out of the shell readily, crabs are much more resistant. First of all, they’re much smaller than a lobster so they don’t yield as much. Then, sections must be separated just right so as to get a clean pick.
Because of all this, it takes much longer to consume a meal of crabs than it does say a burger or a hot dog. It can take a couple of hours for a crab-lover to pick their fill of the succulent meat. Pitchers of beer typically help wash down the spicy seasoning.
A local Mount Vernon family holds an annual crab feast for friends and neighbors on July Fourth. Guests start streaming in around 3 p.m. and some may still be sitting there picking when it gets dark.
Rather than getting crabs already cooked and spiced, they get their crabs live from Southern Maryland and steam them on their outdoor grill. Crabs were in very short supply at that time, but now the crabs from that area are very plentiful. Unfortunately, the prices have not dropped proportionately to reflect that increase.
STEAMED AND LIVE CRABS are available locally in Mount Vernon at Ernie’s Original Crab House, 703-765-1000, Captain White’s Crab House, 703-765-7900, and in Alexandria at Ernie’s Original Crab House, 703-836-1623, and M. Slavin & Sons, 703-486-0400.
Paula Amaya, manager of Captain White’s said that the crabs were scarce at first, but that they are “a lot better now.” Prices per dozen are: regular-$24, medium-$28, large-$42 and jumbo-$60. “We’re one of the few places who have jumbo crabs,” said Amaya. She also mentioned that they have a special on Maine lobster. A whole Maine lobster with mussels and two side dishes is currently available for $24.95, as is a special crab leg platter.
Ernie’s Crab House on Richmond Highway charges the following prices for their crabs: regular-$20, medium-$32, large-$45, extra large-$60 and jumbo-$72.
After the crab feast, meat from left-over crabs can be put to good use creating items such as crab dip, stuffed crabs and crab cakes (see below for recipes). Tired of picking? Then pick up a container of picked crab meat sold at local grocery stores, seafood stores or Sutton Place Gourmet.
Soft-Shell Crabs are still in season until late September. These are the blue crabs that have just molted or backed out of their hard shell. The entire crab is sautéed, grilled, deep fried, broiled or fried tempura style, and are served in local restaurants.
They can also be ordered by contacting John T. Handy Co., Inc.. a seafood company that provides prepared crab dishes to local restaurants and providers. They can be reached at their web site, www.handycrab.com or by calling 1-800-HANDY-SS.
As part of their “Clams... and More” promotion, local Clyde’s Restaurants are serving New England Jonah Crab Claws, cracked and served cold with mustard sauce, or Alaskan King Crab Legs, steamed and served with butter.
MARYLAND CRAB CAKES
(provided by the Honorable Parris N. Glendening, Gov. of Md.)
1 pound Maryland Crab meat
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Margarine, butter or oil for frying
Remove all cartilage from crab meat. In a bowl, mix bread crumbs, eggs, mayonnaise and seasonings. Add crab meat and mix gently by thoroughly. If mixture is too dry, add a little more mayonnaise. Shape into 6 cakes. Cook cakes in a frying pan, in just enough fat to prevent sticking, until they are browned (about 5 minutes on each side).
* Note: If desired, crab cakes may be deep fried at 350 degrees for 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned.
(provided by A2zseafood.com)
20 jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 pound crab meat
1 hard-cooked egg, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced mushrooms
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/4 cup Sherry
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup whipping cream, or enough to moisten
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) melted butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Split the shrimp open along the back to form a large pocket and place on baking sheet. Combine remaining ingredients, except butter, cheese and lemon. Heap the stuffing generously into the shrimp, sprinkle with the melted butter and the Parmesan, and bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. Serve with lemon wedges.
Preparation Time: 30-40 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4-6 as an entree 8 as a first course