Get Ready for Crab Season
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The annual opening of San Francisco’s Dungeness crab season, usually in the beginning of November, marks the arrival of the holidays and a treasured local tradition
Looking for new ways to savor the sweet meat of Dungeness crab? For inspiration, we turned to Allen Kuehn, founder of the San Francisco Fish Company at the Ferry Building Marketplace, where the crab breakfast burrito is a top seller. Read on for Kuehn’s tips for making the most of San Francisco’s crab season, which lasts through June.
Q: What’s your favorite way to prepare Dungeness crab?
A: For years and years and years, everybody would just boil the crab and melt some butter. A few years ago I started roasting crab. I just love it, and we’ve turned a lot of our customers on to that.
Q: How can folks try this at home?
A: What we do is we clean the crabs, we crack them, and then we split them for you. Take five cloves of garlic per crab; smash it; put it in a big metal bowl with the crab, olive oil, and salt and pepper; and really toss it. Preheat your oven to 450 to 475. Put the crab into a roasting pan and then into the preheated oven for 15 minutes. It’s so good you’re going to want to eat the shells and everything.
You can add some herbs or chili flakes to it. For Asian-infused flavor, you could add some chili peppers, ginger, garlic and soy.
Q: What do you serve with Dungeness crab?
A: Typically, I’ll do a salad, some really good sourdough bread and possibly a soup beforehand. A nice glass of white wine goes well, too.
Around the holidays a lot of people like to do cioppino, which is another classic San Francisco dish. It typically involves the crab, clams and prawns in a tomato sauce. In our cioppino, the secret ingredient is the crab butter, and that really gives it that richness.
Q: What should people look for when shopping for crab?
A: One of the things that makes us special is that we have live tanks and a kettle here. We cook them right from the tank to the kettle, and that makes it obvious that it’s fresh. What I look for in crabs is weight disbursement compared to the size of the crab. If it’s a big crab, it should be heavy.
Q: What’s your rule of thumb for determining how much to order?
A: We recommend one crab per person as an entree and half a crab per person as an appetizer.
Q: When do you recommend placing orders for holiday meals?
A: The season usually opens November 15, and that is the best time of year for crab in terms of the price. Usually, that’s the lowest that the price is going to be. We highly recommend around the holidays that you preorder. We’ll take preorders for Thanksgiving as soon as the season starts and take it one holiday at a time.
Q: Any additional advice for enjoying Dungeness crab on a budget?
A: It’s a good idea to make cioppino. Crab gumbo is another really great idea. If you’re serving four people, take the crabmeat and put it in the bottom of each bowl so you know everybody is getting the same amount. Then ladle whatever else you’re putting into it on top.
You don’t have to always make a big meal out of it. If you’re having four people, get a nice big crab for an appetizer. Everybody can have a little bit of the leg and a little bit of the body. It’s festive, and it reminds you of how lucky we are to live here—as if we need another reminder.
Dungeness Crab—A Healthy Choice
Crab ranks among the top 10 types of seafood consumed most often in the United States, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The American Heart Association considers seafood to be heart healthy because it’s generally low in saturated fat, high in protein and contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect against arrhythmias and decrease triglyceride levels. Dungeness crab fits the profile, with no saturated fat, 1 gram of total fat and 19 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving—and only 90 calories. On the flip side, one serving contains 320 milligrams of sodium (the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams daily). Note: Many seafood choices pack a higher omega-3 fatty acid content.