While there has been a slight delay in crabbing season here in the Bay Area, due to the unfortunate crash of the Cosco Busan into the Bay Bridge in early November. The resulting oil spill endangered the season, but after due diligence and clearance from the Department of Fish and Game, crabbers started hauling in loads in early December. Per our annual tradition, we bought our fair share to eat on New Year's Eve, with a bit reserved for crab cakes on New Year's Day. The boys up at the meat department at Roberts of Woodside chose three nice juicy ones, which they kindly cleaned and cracked for me. (Thanks Will!)
We have typically eaten the crab in the simplest fashion: Cover the table in newspaper, ice down the crab in a big bowl, make some garlic butter and homemade cocktail sauce, and go to town…with a bit of sourdough on the side. The table is quiet, lips smacking as fingers pull the crabmeat out. We gorge ourselves, licking our fingers long after our tummies have told us to stop. While little compares to this little ritual, I chose a slightly different route this year.
What seems like a lifetime ago, we made a weekend foray up to St. Helena to do some wine tasting, staying over in a B&B in Calistoga. On the suggestion of my brother, we had made advance reservations at what was at that time a newish restaurant called Tra Vigne. The menu was overwhelming to us, but the one dish that stood out, something I had not seen on a menu before, was the Garlic Roasted Crab. It was a whole crab, which I couldn't quite finish on my own, that was heavenly. Warm, with browned bits of garlic on each piece, it was one of my more memorable meals. I have yet to get back there, or duplicate the recipe myself, but recently I found the instructions for it in the SF Chronicle. Hallelujah!
Simple with few ingredients and quick to prepare, it is worth the extra time (and the extra finger licking!). Since crab will be available for awhile longer, I heartily recommend you try this out. You will not be sorry. And if you feel really inspired, pick up Michael Chiarello's "The Tra Vigne Cookbook," which also has this recipe. I know you will find some tasty recipes in that one.
We used fresh Meyer lemons from our yard, which are late coming in this year, and in abundance, as well as some Meyer lemon sea salt that I made earlier this year. Added just a bit more flavor, IMHO.
Roast Garlic Crab
6 T unsalted butter
6 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T minced garlic
4 Dungeness crabs (about 1.5 pounds apiece), cooked, cracked and cleaned
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ c finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Heat the butter, oil and garlic in very large ovenproof sauté 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—tossing halfway through the cooking process. Pour crab into a large warm serving bowl, add the lemon juice and parsley and toss well.
A bonus for me was getting to serve the crab in my new red oval oven pot, a Christmas present from Electrician Son (who is currently sunning himself in Hawaii).