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Oregon Coast Dungeness Crab Recipes and more
Oregon Coast Notes - News

By NANCY LINDAHL and MARIANNE BREENER
for ChicoER.com

http://www.theoceanharvest.com/sites/default/files/images/crabbing%202009%20001.400x.JPGCrab season in Northern California begins in mid-November and, technically runs to June, but, 80 percent of the local Dungeness Crab is brought in by the end of December. Now is the time to enjoy fresh local crab before the winter is over.

Dungeness crabs are found along the entire Pacific Coast from central California to Alaska, and most Dungeness crabs, about 65 million pounds, are caught from December through February in California, Oregon and Washington.

Metacarcinus magister, the Dungeness crab is named after the town of Dungeness, on Washington's Olympic peninsula about 15 miles east of Port Angeles. It was originally known as Cancer magister or "master crab."

The Dungeness was named the Oregon State Crustacean in 2009

due to the work of Natalie Bruun and her fourth-grade classmates at Sunset Primary School in West Linn, Ore., who petitioned the state legislature to elevate the crab's status as an iconic symbol of Oregon's beauty and bounty — along with the hazelnut and the American beaver.

This is a great crab year as reported by Oregon Department of Agriculture. The first month's harvest of 15.6 million pounds exceeded last year's total eight-month harvest of about 13 million pounds along the Oregon coast. Quality is higher than in previous years, with larger size individual crabs being harvested. A good crab season can have a big impact on the Oregon economy, and December's catch including related activities like onshore processing contributed about $55 million in economic activity for Oregon's coastal communities.

Pacific Coast Dungeness Crab fishery is considered the most sustainable crab fishery in the world, according to Paul Johnson, author of "Fish Forever," a cookbook and guide to sustainable fishing. Dungeness are caught in environmentally friendly traps and are managed by size, season and sex. Only male crabs are harvested; females are returned to the sea to reproduce for years to come.

Although the Dungeness crab stock is healthier than ever, the fishery has tripled in size since 2002 as the demand for Dungeness crabs has expanded explosively. Dungeness crab is turning up in markets in Boston, New York and Chicago as the rest of the country catches on to the meaty, sweet succulence of this cold-water Pacific crab.

Inland, in the valley, the crabs we see in the market are pre-cooked, or bright orange. For ideal freshness, Dungeness crab should be cooked as quickly as possible after catching, and many crab boats have steaming pots on board where they will cook the crabs and pack them in ice for delivery.

On the coast, live crabs are steamed or boiled as they come off the fishing boats. Think winter at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, the air perfumed with the scent of crabs boiling in large outdoor pots for walk-away crab cocktails, or to be made into cioppino or crab Louis by wharf restaurants. Live crabs are blue-green to purplish gray in color, but the exoskeleton contains an orange carotenoid pigment called astaxanthin that is released when the animal is cooked. It turns cooked crab shells their appealing rosy-orange color.

If you'd like to try crab as a companion to a variety of other flavors, some interesting recipes follow.

If you're lucky enough to have leftover crab, there's no better use for it than Crab Eggs Benedict. Rich and creamy, bright with lemon, this classic brunch dish also makes a great supper when paired with a simple green salad. Prep and Cook Time: 45 minutes.

For an even richer dish, top each muffin half with a few slices of avocado before adding the crab

Crab Eggs Benedict

6 large egg yolks

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 cups melted unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

6 English muffins

12 large eggs

Make hollandaise sauce: In the bottom of a double boiler or in a medium saucepan, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer over high heat and adjust heat to maintain simmer. Put egg yolks, lemon juice, and mustard in top of a double boiler or in a round-bottomed medium bowl and set over simmering water. Whisk yolk mixture to blend.

Whisking constantly, add butter in a slow, steady stream (it should take about 90 seconds). Cook sauce, whisking, until it reaches 140 degrees, then adjust heat to maintain temperature (remove from simmering water if necessary). Add salt, pepper, and cayenne and continue whisking until thick, about 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Remove from stove and set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Split English muffins and arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until toasted, about 5 minutes.

Put 2 muffin halves on each plate and top with crab, dividing evenly.

Poach eggs: Bring 1 in. water to boil in a 12-in.-wide pan. Lower heat so that small bubbles form on the bottom of the pan and break to the surface only occasionally. Crack eggs into water 1 at a time, holding shells close to the water's surface and letting eggs slide out gently. Poach eggs, in 2 batches to keep them from crowding, 3 to 4 minutes for soft-cooked. Lift eggs out with a slotted spoon, pat dry with a paper towel, and place 1 egg on each crab-topped muffin half.

Top each egg with two to three tablespoons reserved hollandaise sauce and serve hot. Serves 6.

Recipe from Sunset Magazine, December, 2006

 Michael Chiarello is the chef behind Tra Vigne's Roast Garlic Crab, a recipe he claims is one of the simplest and most successful he's prepared, "As long as we can get fresh Dungeness crabs, this dish is on the menu." Stone crabs, spider crabs, blue crabs, or lobsters can all be substituted for Dungeness in this recipe

Tra Vigne's Famous Roast Garlic Crab

4-5 garlic cloves

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 Dungeness crabs, about 1-1/4 pounds each, cooked, cleaned, and cracked

Gray salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Heat the butter, olive oil, and garlic in a very large ovenproof sautŽ pan over medium-high heat until hot. (You may need 2 pans.) Add the crab, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss well. Transfer to the oven and roast until the garlic turns light brown and the crab is heated through, about 12 minutes. Toss once halfway through.

Pour the contents of the pan into a large warm serving bowl, add the lemon juice and the parsley, and toss well. Serves 4

Tips: The saline content may be high in cooked crabs, as salt increases their shelf life.

 Chef Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in San Francisco makes a crab and cellophane noodle dish that is a favorite of Paul Johnson, the owner of Monterey Fish Market, supplier to chefs such as Alice Waters and Thomas Keller, advisor to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program, chef, and author of "Fish Forever."

Glass noodles are used in Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian cuisines. Because the noodles are made from mung bean flour, they don't need to be boiled, so they're quick and convenient. Simply soften them for five or ten minutes in warm water until "glassy" and soft.

Well-seasoned restaurant woks and high heat give Charles' noodles a rich smoky flavor that is difficult to replicate at home, but pan searing just the noodles, scallions and crab meat in a smoking-hot wok or cast iron skillet, and then seasoning the mixture on the plate gives a close result.

Pan-Flashed Vietnamese Noodles with Crabmeat

1 package (3 1/2 ounces) glass (cellophane) noodles

8 ounces fresh crab meat, picked over for shell

1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and light green parts only

1 garlic clove

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 Tablespoons fish sauce

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked in a mortar with a pestle

2 Tablespoons refined peanut oil or another high-heat l for frying

Garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges

Put the glass noodles in a bowl, add warm water to cover and let stand until they start to soften but are still quite crunchy - about 5 minutes. Drain and pat dry. In another bowl, combine the noodles,crabmeat, and scallions and toss to blend.

Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic and ginger to a paste. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice and black pepper.

Heat a wok or large cast-iron skillet over high heat until searing hot, about 5 minutes for a wok and 10 minutes for a cast-iron skillet. Add the oil, which will start to smoke, and immediately toss in the noodles, crabmeat, and scallion mixture. Stir fry for 20 seconds. Divide among 4 plates and spoon the seasoning mixture over the steeping hot noodles. Garnish with the cilantro and lime wedges. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

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