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A Crib Sheet for Crab Eating

I called my 86-year-old grandmother last Friday night, excited – I just got a package in the mail fresh from Maryland. ”Blue crabs! Large males! Freshly steamed and overnighted from the Chesapeake Bay!”

Granny had mallets, claw crackers, and shellfish forks waiting when I got home.

After we re-steamed the crabs, all three of my 80-something grandparents and my sister, brother, and I cracked away at the hefty crustaceans. It takes time and patience to pluck every sweet morsel of meat out of their brittle limbs, so you might as well do it with good company.

Despite a few finger pricks and squirts of water in the claw-wrenching process, I had the technique down by crab #3. While a mess of bright orange crustaceans can be intimidating at first, here are a few steps to help you crack crabs with gusto.

1.Assemble your team and their weapons of choice, preferably outside: Our team (different vintages, but no matter) had a dozen meat picks, four mallets, a few claw crackers, and melted butter. My dog Ajax hung around for moral support – and in hopes of working cleanup crew.

2.Head, shoulders, knees and toes: This technique exposes the crabs belly in a heartbeat. I grip the crab’s head so I can twist off the shoulders (each claw), and then rip off the knees (and by connection, toes) from the body. Left with the white body exposed, it’s easier to cut into the softer white belly where large lump meat lies.

3.Belly up: Their white belly yields large lumps. Look here for the most meat.

4.Back away from the backs: Don’t eat the “Devils Fingers.” They’re actually gills and don’t have the sweet, complex flavor of the crab meat itself.

5.Round two: And should you have a single claw or lump left, this meat can be frozen or stirred with a dab of mayonnaise, scallion, and whole grain mustard for an elegant little crab cake.

Photos by Charlie Andersen

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