Crab for Christmas

My days in Humboldt County are short - I'm leaving to move back to my home state of Wisconsin on the second of January. I decided to celebrate my last Humboldt Christmas with something I can't get back in Wisconsin - live crab. In season, Dungeness crab is plentiful around here and unlike salmon, it hasn't been overfished - it's sustainably harvested without putting the crab population at risk.

After work on Christmas Eve I drove out to the marina in Eureka to see if I could find some live crabs for sale. I was in luck! This boat had a neon sign that read 'Mr. Crab,' and they had a whole tank full of freshly caught live crabs for sale. It was really fun to buy directly from the fishermen! It made me wish I had done this more often - for as passionate as I am about local farming, I'm pretty unfamiliar with the fishermen in our area. The owners of this boat seemed like a really nice couple. I told them I wanted two crabs, and the woman bagged them up for me. Only $15.00 for two beautiful crabs!

I wasn't exactly sure how to keep them overnight, so I put them in the bathtub while I did some research. Leo was very intrigued, but he was smarter than to jump in the tub with them.

I decided it would be best to keep them in the fridge. I wish I had gathered some fresh seaweed to keep them in, but instead I put wet newspaper in the bottom of two large bowls...

...put a crab on top....

...and covered them over with more wet newspaper.

They chilled in the fridge overnight. I felt way more guilty about keeping them overnight than I did about killing them. I really wish I could have bought them the same day I cooked them, but I was pretty sure the fishermen wouldn't be there on Christmas day. It seemed a little like torture to keep them so far out of their element....

I think it was good for me to actually bring something home alive and kill it for food. I eat a fair amount of meat, but I never really have to deal with the death that inevitably goes along with it. I think we should all probably kill our own food a little more often to remind us what an intense and serious thing it really is....

On Christmas day we went for a drive to the beach. A storm front was coming through, making for big waves and beautiful skies.

Then were drove about 8 miles up Fickle Hill Road, which is the road we live on. It took a while to get to the snow, but about 5 miles up (about 1000 feet elevation?) it started to stick. It was just beautiful on the trees! One of the coolest things about this part of California is how diverse the climate can be. At the beach it was cold, but raining - up here it was a whole different world!

Back at home I made some hot cocoa, and started to think about dinner.... I make hot cocoa with just milk, cocoa powder, cinnamon, a tiny bit of honey, and nutmeg. I like it quite bitter - almost like coffee.....

Step one was to open the champagne! I decided, especially since I'm leaving the area soon, to go with an all local theme. This is a local bubbly from Briceland Vineyards.

Mmmmm.....I don't drink sparkling wine much, but I really enjoy it when I do.

While I was getting the crab started, we ate some local goat cheese from Cyprus Grove with the last of the apples left on our tree. They weren't the highest quality, but they were sweet and they completed the cheese really well.

I started melting some of my homemade butter for dipping the crab in, and got a big pot of salt water boiling on the stove.

Here's the first victim. He was still alive, but was pretty out of it. He didn't seem like much of a threat to pick up, which was good. I found myself getting a little squeamish about touching him, but I swallowed my fear and went for it.

I picked him up from behind...

...and in the water he went! I made sure it was at a nice rolling boil so he would be killed very quickly. I was glad to put him out of his misery. Oh, and no, he did not make any screaming noises when I put him in the water. That seems to be a pretty widespread myth....

I waited for the water to come to a rolling boil again, and then put the second one it.

About 20 minutes later, they were done!

I rinsed them under cold water to cool them down, and went to work cleaning them.

First, I took off the "apron," which is a little tail-like thing on the back.

From there, it was easy to pry off the shell.

This is where it got a little gross....The guts mostly came off with the shell.

Next was to pick off the gills and clean him up...

I rinsed him off, and he was ready to go!

We each got a whole crab for dinner, plus more champagne, salad, sourdough bread, and clarified butter. So simple, and soo good!!!! I like messy eating, so crab is right up my alley!!

We had lots of leftover too - There's few things on earth as rich and yummy as fresh crab meat! I used this to make crab cakes a few days later.

For dessert, we opened this local port.

Along with these truffles from Drake's Glen in Arcata. We really shouldn't have eaten these all between two people - they were really really rich, but it was Christmas, so what the heck!
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  1. Hi, you don't know my but i LOVE your blog. i stumbled upon it while i was researching local food restaurants for work on the La Trattoria page! i was immediately inspired by your blogs and then i found out that you know many of the farmers in the area.

    my partner, isaiah, and i just moved here in june (i've lived her before) and he does farm work for Ed and G-Farm Johnny. we just moved from Madison, WI where he worked for Snughaven spinach, Tom Brantmeier garlic and Primrose Community Farm (Mike Noltner). we were told that you are from there and are heading back, if you are not there already, and i am so bummed that we did not have the chance to meet. please continue your blog, it so so beautiful and i look forward to hearing Madison, WI food recipes!!

  2. Just a comment that I've enjoyed reading your blog; it's given me a few ideas for meals! Sorry to see you move away; hope things are well & I wish you the best.


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