The first Saturday of November may be just a regular day to most people, but for my husband and me, it is sacred: It is opening day of non-commercial Dungeness crab fishing season. Two weeks before the professional crabbers are allowed to drop their pots, amateurs like us get first crack at the area’s delectable crustacean crop. Each year, along with a group of similarly obsessed friends, we rent a rambling vacation house perched on the cliffs of Dillon Beach, a tiny surfing and fishing town nestled at the northwestern edge of the mouth of Tomales Bay. Weather permitting, we rent a small motor boat and load it up with a slew of crab pots owned, and I dare say lovingly tended, by our dear friend Kenny Banks (aka Captain Kaos). First thing Saturday morning, we push off into the brisk waters of the bay—a long, narrow inlet tucked at an angle like a pants pocket into the scenic Marin County coastline and Point Reyes National Seashore. We toss our baited pots into the water and then . . . we wait.
When you add up the cost of renting the house and the boat, buying the gear, and all the expenses of an out-of-town weekend—not to mention all the time spent getting there, getting ready, and of course, the waiting—and consider that most years we feel lucky if we catch six or eight keepers, it quickly becomes apparent that these crabs are outrageously pricey. But those precious few Dungies—plucked from the briny Pacific with our very own hands and eaten within hours—are worth every penny. This year, we hit the motherlode: Twenty-seven worthy Dungeness landed in our boat in the first few hours at bay. So many, in fact, that we called it a day—and canceled the boat rental for the rest of the weekend—before lunchtime.
Simply steamed in a pot of salted water, Dungeness crab eaten right out of the shell and washed down with a crisp white wine is the ultimate in lazy gourmet dining. But if, like us, you find yourself with an abundance and want some variety, or are just keen on a slightly fancier presentation, I highly recommend this ingenious method, adapted from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook . The steamed and cracked crab is brushed with a combination of olive oil and melted butter spiced with lots of paprika, cayenne, garlic, salt, and a touch of lemon and then roasted for a few minutes in a hot oven. The sweet succulent meat becomes divine as it permeates with the rich, spicy flavors. Lucky for you, commercial crab season has officially begun, so you should be able to net a couple of keepers—already cleaned, steamed, and cracked—at your local fish market for less than a twenty spot.Print
This ingenious method for preparing crab is adapted from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook by Alice Waters. The steamed and cracked crab is brushed with a combination of olive oil and melted butter spiced with lots of paprika, cayenne, garlic, salt, and a touch of lemon and then roasted for a few minutes in a hot oven. The sweet succulent meat becomes divine as it permeates with the rich, spicy flavors.
- 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 good-sized Dungeness crabs, steamed, cleaned, and cracked.
- Preheat oven to 425ºF.
- In a small bowl, combine the butter, olive oil, garlic, paprika, cayenne, lemon juice, and salt.
- Arrange the cracked crab pieces on a large baking sheet (or two, if necessary) and brush generously with the butter mixture.
- Roast in preheated oven for about 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately with lots of napkins and the extra butter mixture for dipping.