What a treat!
For quite a while I’ve been eyeing the amazing seafood that the gang from SEA FEVER SEAFOOD has been bringing to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market on Sundays. In addition to the crabs, they also have a few beautiful fish (almost always some gorgeous rock and ling cod), nice looking spiny lobsters and Pacific conch which are smaller and less flashier than the Caribbean variety. This week the boat brought in some outstanding ridgeback shrimp that really tempted me but when I got a look at the crabs I knew what I was having for lunch!
Sea Fever are the only guys I know with the illustrious ROCK CRABS from the Channel Islands outside of Santa Barbara. It’s a mystery to me that these crabs haven’t caught on big time, they are the Southern California equivalent to the mighty Dungeness crabs of the Pacific northwest. Rock crabs are similar to the big D in many ways only there is a little less body meat. That’s OK because unlike Dungeness, Rock crabs have ginormous claws! The pinchers are big, strong and have pointed black tips that remind me of Florida stone crab. Killer.
I got two crabs, one was a female “red” crab and the other was a male “yellow” one. The sex doesn’t make any difference when it comes to color though, it’s all about pigment and depth. The red crab came from deeper depths (350 feet below in this case) while the yellow guy was caught at 200 feet. The Sea Fever crew invited me to see if I could taste a difference between the two. Challenge accepted, cash exchanged (dude, $4 a pound for a live crab?), a sack of ice to keep things cool and within an hour I had two live crabs posing for photos on my cutting board!
It was at this moment, that I started to feel bad. Here in my kitchen were two incredibly beautiful animals and I was about to kill and eat them. It’s an interesting thing to stare your food down, looking it right in the eyes. I felt compassion for these crabs and a little guilty and ashamed for what I was about to do. They were so beautiful, they looked so old, they seemed so wise. “Why won’t the water boil faster,” I cursed.
I can do this, I can kill these two crabs…what the hell are my options anyway? Driving to the beach to set them free? They’ll never make it. I should eat them. They do look delicious…
I started to think about some of the dharma talks I’ve attended in which I was told that anyone who kills another living thing will “suffer irrevocable karmic consequences.” But you know what? I’m taking responsibility for my own food and if I can’t kill it, I probably shouldn’t eat it. Though I’m not rushing out the door to slaughter a cow, I rarely eat animals and when I do I want to ensure that the meat I eat was raised in ways that are healthy and humane.
Speaking of humane, the water hit a rolling boil and so I said goodbye and popped the male crab into the pot. He didn’t eventwitch…at first. About 7 seconds after he was submerged he pulled all of his legs and claws inward a little and a few bubbles of air escaped his shell. That was it. The female went down in much the same way.
Recently my food philosophy has been one of purity. Since the majority of my ingredients are from the farmer’s market I’m getting super fresh, super tasty fruits, veggies, eggs and meats. I don’t want to mess with these great flavors, you dig? A little coaxing, a little pairing is cool, but I have no need for heavy sauces or manipulation. So I skipped the Old Bay seasoning (which I do love actually…it reminds me of the hot summer shrimp boils in Florida) and cooked these crabs in nothing but water heavily seasoned with sea salt. Butter? What the hell’s that for? These rock crabs were so sweet and flavorful nothing was needed but a pair of crackers to bust through the shell.
To accompany the crab I did some oven roasted potatoes with fresh curry leaves courtesy of my awesome neighbor. And to finish it off, a salad of farm-fresh romaine with slices of pomelo, raw walnuts and a real simple vinaigrette.
Want recipes? Wanna find out which crab tasted better? Check back soon!