You’ll recognize it because it’s the official mascot of Delmarva, the Chesapeake Bay Blue crab, which is either out of season or close to it. You can still decide you’ve had enough of old Tom Turkey this year and decide to go for something just as delicious – but you’ll have to take a different approach.
Not Just “On the Shore”
This might work for you in all parts of the eastern US where you can get blue crab, or even in the West if you have access to Blue Crab flown in from Louisiana or even Florida if you can’t find those Jimmies or Sooks from the Bay itself. A little “Old Bay” seasoning will fool your tongue this holiday into thinking you’re sitting smack down twenty feet away from the docks in Crisfield, the crab capital of the eastern shore (with due apologies to fans of Cambridge and Nanticoke or Vienna.)
Say goodbye to the bird and go grab a few yards of brown craft paper or that dwindling resource, newspaper, if you can find any. A small knife is really all you need for this holiday exercise. Tell anyone who insists on a mallet that they’re doing it wrong and you’ll show them how to whack a peeler.
Cooking your “Turkey of the Sea”
Depending on how many people you’ll have, grab a bushel or two of number 1 Jimmies. Those are the big, male crabs most people find best for cooking and cracking. However, this may depend on where you live and the time of season. Supply could mean a couple of bushels of jumbos will set you back as much as a mortgage payment on that shack you have built by the Coast Guard station over in Chincoteague! Rest assured it’ll be worth it.
Get a huge metal pan, a steamer which you can usually buy at any big-box store. It has to have a good, tight fitting lid and a steamer bottom. It can’t be any old pan; it’s got to be a big one like you’d cook lobster in. Fill the bottom with a mix of water from the sink and about 3 cups of apple cider vinegar or even beer. Start the fire, and get this heated to it starts to steam.
This might bother you, but if you haven’t steamed the crabs at the store where you bought them, you’ll do it yourself. It tastes better that way. Take some tongs and just throw the live crabs in there. DO NOT forget to thoroughly cover them with Old Bay before you close the lid. They won’t like it, but you’ll know it’s over for them when they turn bright red.
Proper Eatin’ Etiquette
Throw your thanksgiving feast on the newspapers and divvy them up with family and friends. Corn goes nicely with them, so does cold beer of your choice. They won’t provide you a lot of meat, but what you do get from them will be zesty and tasty, and a whole lot different than turkey. Start by cracking their claws – use the handle of your knife to break the large claw shell. Then pull the smaller legs out, be careful with the back fins where the “lump meat” is located. That’s the drumstick of the blue crab. Next, you go to the crab’s chest and crack off its “apron” or chest plate, then use the knife to separate the top and bottom of the shell. You’ll see yellow stuff inside – “crab mustard” eat it or not, just don’t eat the “dead man’s fingers” or crab’s lungs as they might not set well with your stomach.
Work your way through the rest of the meat on the crab’s chest. Repeat, and prepare to get dirty and smell like fish until Christmas when you’ll do it again.