Friday 24 July 2009

How to kill a crab

Fairground goldfish started losing their appeal by the time I was six. Even a child could see, from the size of the bulls-eye, missing wasn't really an option. I'd take my prize home and in a matter of days, have to bury it. Then, about to chuck in the towel, I picked a belter...
Tim, incredibly, lived for 5 years and made me rethink everything I thought I knew about goldfish.
Tim remembered stuff. Like dinner time. And, he could dance. He'd swim different patterns to different tunes. His favourite was, I kid you not, "Don't Stand So Close To Me', by The Police.
Then we got cats.
They didn't care about Tim's longevity, impressive fishy memory, or unique dancing style, they just flung him onto the carpet, tormented the little orange gasper, then ate him. Harsh. It took a long time to forgive them.

Hey, times change. Now I choose to buy my fish dead.... but my crabs alive! There are many good reasons to buy them live, this is one of the best...

Some people pop crabs in the freezer for a few hours before cooking to 'slow them down' and make their passing easier.

Or, you can plunge a skewer into the hole, found by lifting the "apron" underneath the crab. That kills them pretty instantly.

In my experience, so does plunging them into fiercely boiling water.
The water should be really salty- seawater strength- and, if you want, can be flavoured with onion, peppercorns, wine, herbs etc. Putting them in upside down helps keep the claws on.
Return the pan to the boil, keep on a gentle boil for 15 minutes per kilo. Turn off the gas and leave for another 15 minutes per kilo. Then plunge the crab into cold water, drain, and leave it to cool.

Now for the bit, where, if the eventual plan is to share, you'll have to try really hard not to eat it all.

Prize off the top. Inside is the brown meat. Scoop it all out, even the sloppy stuff. It's all edible, but avoid the stomach sack if you see it. I normally don't. The white 'tendrils' are called 'Dead Man's Fingers'. They're the gills. Discard them.

Mash all the brown meat together. You can add soft breadcrumbs if you want. Not just to increase volume, but to alleviate some of the very rich taste. Lemon juice helps too.

This is what's left once the lid and all the claws have gone. Do not discard! This is where the majority of the white meat lurks.

Cut it in half with a heavy knife.

And get poking! Carefully though because the shell here is brittle and you can easily end up with fragments throughout the meat. This part of the process takes a bit of time.

A sharp bash with a rolling pin... and hey presto.

Loads of lovely white meat.

And a great big mess...

There's an incredible amount of flavour in the shell bits. Fry them in oil for 5 mins, add onions, garlic, tomatoes, white wine if you've some left over and simmer for an hour or two. Strain, season and add cream if you want. A delicious crab 'bisquey soupy' sort of thing.
As for the meat, well, when a crab's this fresh you don't want to piss around with it. I served mine on a bed of Scottish tomatoes (that's not a misprint), sprinkled with tarragon, a few drops of lemon juice and a tablespoon of top notch olive oil....

The Scottish chanterelles in the background went with the sea bass. But that's for another post. Mmmm, this was utterly delicious. Thanks crab. All washed down with a seafood classic combination wine...

Very nice. From Oddbins. Lot's of buttery, minerally flavours- from all those fossilised oyster shells in the Chablis soil presumably. If it wasn't over £12 a bottle, I'd say, snap it up!

Earlier, before boiling, I'd been admiring my big cock crab and noticed he had the perfect arms for tattoos. An 'anchor' with 'Mum and Dad' underneath perhaps? In the end I decided against drawing one, it would make me no better than the cats who ate Tim. Silly reasoning though, because I'm pretty sure crabs don't comprehend humiliation. Then again, who'd have thought a goldfish could dance...


  1. Wine Splodge,
    How is it possible that in 5 years of sitting next to each other talking rubbish all day we never discovered that we had both had pet goldfish with freakishly long lives and personalities!!??! 'Fish' lived for 4 years, did flips and either loved or hated my sister - depending on the interpretation of him splashing her with his tail when she got too near his tank.

    On the substantive point of how to kill a crab. As a vegetarian, I should say don't kill them at all... but they taste too good (bad vegetarian).


  2. Hey A,
    Probably because 5 years is only enough time to scratch the surface of the rubbish inside my head. And, it appears the same is true for you!
    Do you think goldfish maybe actually intelligent? Relatively that is...on a fishy scale. I may have to stop eating them.....