Dungeness crab, Cancer magister, gets it’s common name from the small town of Dungeness on the Washington coast where it’s first commercial harvesting took place almost one hundred years ago. It is found in eel grass and on muddy or sandy ocean bottoms from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to south of San Francisco. Oregon Dungeness crab fishery is one of the few state managed fisheries in the U.S. Only male crabs exceeding 6-1/4″ across the back can be harvested and all females are returned to the ocean. The annual season begins December first when the crabs are hard shelled and at their prime. We Oregonians take pride in the sustainability of this resource and make great effort to insure that this industry has a solid future.
In addition to digging razor clams when I was a child, my family took a small boat out into Nehalem Bay on the central coast each winter, let several crab pots over the side, and returned hours later to retrieve their catch. I have vivid memories of standing on a seat in the boat and hollering my head off at the crabs scuttling around on the boat floor. Although the crabs aren’t more than about 12 inches across they looked gigantic to a four year old. Check out The Amateur Gourmet for an excellent post on what’s involved in catching and preparing our fantastic local crab.
My grandmother served steaming hot bowls of cracked crab over which she poured a spicy, lemony sauce. Served with crusty french bread, the meal was heavenly. I have many recipes that use this amazingly delicate and delicious shellfish and you will probably see several of them as we go through the winter. One of my favorites is Dungeness Crab Sandwiches. Serve with a nice white wine and a little slaw and you have a meal fit for royalty.
- 2 English muffins, split
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 3 ounces cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon green onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon celery, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
- 6 ounces Dungeness crab meat
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Toast and butter the English muffins. Combine mayo, cream cheese, green onion, celery, lemon juice, mustard and salt and pepper. Gently mix in the crab. Divide crab mixture among the toasted muffins. Top each muffin with 1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese. Place under the broiler until browned and bubbly.