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2.17.2009

A first-rate mess

On Saturday night, we covered the table with newspaper, dumped out a pile of Dungeness crabs, and made a first-rate mess.


My mother was in town for the long weekend. She’s a champion crab-leg sucker, so to celebrate her visit, we bought three large crabs, cracked and cleaned, and Ben came over, and Brandon put some Django Reinhardt on the stereo, and after a few minutes, the wine bottle was covered with smears of crab and bits of shell, and it was such a good night that, looking at this picture and knowing that the scene is over, balled up and packed into the trash can outside, I feel sort of on the verge of a sob. I also feel immensely relieved that my mother is now back in Oklahoma, where I can’t see her frown when she finds out that I have outed her as a crab-leg sucker.

If I didn’t have relatives in San Francisco, I might never have learned about Dungeness crab. In Oklahoma, we certainly didn’t have any. But in San Francisco, at my mother’s twin sister’s house, we sometimes ate it on Christmas Eve, with sourdough, green beans, white wine, and a roll of paper towels for napkins. When I was eighteen, I decided to go to college there, and though I wasn’t thinking specifically of improving my access to fresh Dungeness crab, the prospect didn’t hurt. Every now and then, I would go to see my aunt over weekends and holidays, and in the winter and early spring, when Dungeness crabs are in season, we would sometimes splurge on a couple for dinner. I liked the whole idea of them: their sweetly saline meat, the ritual of the newspaper on the table and the paper towels in our laps, the casual slurping and the communal mess, the way it all felt so California. I liked to think that, in eating them, I too was California, in a sense. Whatever I was, I wasn’t Oklahoma City anymore. Every time I would drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, I would feel close to squealing, thinking, I LIVE HERE! I never got tired of it.

But eventually I finished college, and I went back to Oklahoma. My father made the drive with me a few days after graduation, and I was so terrified by the thought of leaving San Francisco that I had heartburn for the entire trip. One afternoon, I remember, we pulled over at a rest stop in New Mexico and shared a slice of blackberry pie that we had bought earlier in the day, in Albuquerque. The wind was whipping my t-shirt around like mad, and my chest felt so tight and painful that I was sure, absolutely sure, that I was dying. Once we got to Oklahoma City, I knew, I would be diagnosed with some sort of rare, fatal condition and given only a few months to live, and everyone would take pity on me and send me back to San Francisco, where I would live out my final days in a Victorian with a view of the bay. It would be beautiful and tragic, not only because I was only 22 and had never had a real boyfriend, but also because I would probably die in the summertime, when Dungeness crabs are hard to come by.

But instead, the heartburn went away, and I didn’t die. I had a great summer. My hair was short and spiky, and I had a pink halter top. I met a guy in a grocery store and fell in love, and he made my chest feel tight in a much better way. That fall, I applied to graduate school. I wanted to go to UC Berkeley, but the only school that wanted me was the University of Washington. So I moved to Seattle, and it was here that, shortly after, I learned that Dungeness crabs were named for a town on the coast of Washington State, which is where they were first commercially harvested. Which means, I think, that I was actually supposed to be here, not in San Francisco, all along.

Now when I eat Dungeness crab, I feel very Seattle. Somehow, I never get tired of that either.


Dungeness crab doesn’t need much in the way of a recipe, but I can tell you that it, served with the roasted broccoli from this recipe (minus the shrimp, and use kosher salt, not regular, and don’t forget the finishing squeeze of lemon), a loaf of sourdough, and a bottle of some sort of crisp white wine, makes a dreamy mid-February meal. Just be sure to have a few layers of newspaper on the table, and some lobster picks and nutcrackers, for getting at the meat. If you want, you can also melt some butter - clarified, if you’re fancy - and set that out as a dip. Most importantly, don’t forget to put a couple of paper towels in your lap, or else you’ll have rivulets of crab juice running down your forearms and onto your pants. Actually, that’ll happen no matter what you do, but it’s nice to be able to sop it up occasionally. Otherwise, it gets sort of sticky. If you’re Ben, you’ll also spray crab juice all over the front of your shirt, but that’s a special case.

After dinner, after you’ve rolled up the newspaper and the crab shells inside it and wiped down the table, a batch of chocolate chip cookies becomes important, as does some port or Scotch. And after that, a good, long sleep.


About Dungeness crab

- The season for Dungeness crab runs from November or December through late spring. Many people say that the sweetest crabs are the ones available at the very beginning of the season, but the ones we ate last weekend were pretty delicious too.

- Buy your crab from a vendor you trust, and unless you’re going to go out on a boat and catch it yourself, it’s probably easiest to buy it cooked. (Some markets sell live crabs, but buying a live one is not a guarantee of quality.) Your fishmonger should be happy to clean and crack it for you, so when you get home, you only have to do a little work with a nutcracker to access the meat.

- Buy the crab on the day that you plan to eat it - it doesn’t keep well - and store it in the refrigerator until shortly before serving. I like to let mine sit out for about 20 minutes before eating, so that the meat isn’t too cold.

- If you don’t live on the West Coast (or in a city where fresh crab might be flown in daily), you can mail-order Dungeness crab from places like this. (That link goes to my favorite fish market in Seattle.)

- Dungeness crabs weigh from one to two pounds or so. We bought three big ones, and they amply fed four of us.

127 Comments:

Blogger nk said...

ooo now i want crab! ... yum yum

12:56 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Blushing hostess said...

I loved the same mess on the eastern shore of Maryland, no finer way to spend a warm afternoon... Be well, The Hostess

1:00 AM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Sonja said...

I love, love, love crabs! I've never tried Dungeness crab, but currently living in Japan I'm kind of spoiled with a variety of types, and I never get tired of them... I've never gone through the trouble (and mess) of preparing them at home, though.

1:03 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger lottie said...

reasons to visit seattle #537: crab.

1:26 AM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lived in Oregon for 8 years, and this is the first year I've ever had fresh crab. Oh.My.God. Why didn't somebody tell me sooner? This may be weird, but that sweet juiciness kind of reminded me of sweetcorn. If sweetcorn grew in the briny sea. Sorry, I'm a Midwestern transplant myself... I love your site and can't wait for the book!

1:27 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Gourmet Chick said...

What a lovely story. Especially the part when you thought you were going to die a tragic death at 22. I think we have all been there and even envisaged who would come to the funeral.

I wonder what the equivalent of Dungeness crab is in Europe or if there is an equivalent. When I lived in Australia I did love my soft shell crab.

2:40 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Sarah Beam said...

Rats. I was hoping for a picture of you with short, spiky hair and pink halter top.

In lieu, I will sigh mightily that there are no newspapers on my table, nor is there any crab.

5:30 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Lael said...

As a Washingtonian, I loved your story on feeling "so Seattle." Your writing is simply amazing, Molly...engaging, clever, and sincere. I have sweet memories of crabbing a few times in my childhood with friends who had the equipment...racing around in a little speed boat on the choppy water to check the traps, simply watching my dad and his friend wear waders in Birch Bay as I floated along behind in a little dingy with my sister. And then the blessed times that friends would just show up at the door with extras from their catch. Now, in West Texas, I'm scared to touch seafood. I know it won't taste the same and will only give me that same tight-chest feeling.

5:34 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Ali said...

Every post I read makes me miss my home in Seattle more and more. Maine rock crab is pretty darn good but not nearly as impressive when dumped out in the middle of a table.

Thanks again Molly, for making me spend a little time researching plane tickets :-)

-Ali
http://www.galfoodie.com

6:40 AM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous lisaiscooking said...

I do love a messy feast. Looks like a delicious good time!

6:45 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger maggie said...

Growing up in Oregon, Dungeness crabs were such a highlight of this season. Though sometimes the cracking is so much work that you get ravenous, and my mother would serve barbecue chicken alongside.

7:14 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Lisa said...

Growing up in Florida, we smashed stone crabs. And the table always looked exactly like yours. It really is the most fun thing to eat with friends.

7:18 AM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Michelle said...

All of a sudden I want to cry I miss Seattle so much! I get wonderful food here in NYC, but sadly no dungeness crab. Last time I was in town I ate crab or salmon at least once a day. I might need a Seattle visit here soon!

7:45 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Loved the part about leaving San Francisco - so absolutely perfect for 22 years old!

8:04 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger The Mouse said...

What a beautiful entry. Nostalgia and crabs. Two things to make your heart sing.

8:14 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Chelsea said...

Lovely post Molly (as usual)! I adore Dungeness Crab. It feels so luxurious and the only effort is in the eating.

I'm fortunate enough to get live Django music daily. Although it doesn't always feel so fortunate;)
Check out my husband's website (http://www.manouchepacific.com/)

8:16 AM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous jamieofalltrades said...

We eat crab every Christmas Eve. It's so fun and easy and GOOD!

8:23 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Caroline said...

We're going to spend a weekend in San Francisco at the end of March, so hopefully they'll still be in season then.

I love crab!

8:23 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Krysta said...

one of the best memories are eating crab with my father and the rest of the family too. there is such an element of fun when you are a kid with the newspaper on the table and you are able to make a huge mess without anyone getting mad. my dad used to buy a crab per person, i cannot believe how generous this was until i became an adult.

8:25 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Leah said...

I loved this post very much and I love you.

8:48 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger michaela said...

In Boston, lobster is really our thing so I was never a crab fan. Since I moved to the Seattle area last summer, I'm a huge Dungness fan. Sometimes I just get a container of lump crab meat from the market and eat it straight from the container. Where do you buy your crab?

8:57 AM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations for your blog , I love it !! . I want to ask you where did you buy all these cups and saucers you have send to Camilla Engman ? I want to give as a wedding present to my friend , they are sooooo beautiful !!

Thank you so much

Beatrice

9:14 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger tomoko said...

I so enjoyed the story!
And now I have the worst craving for crab...

9:17 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Farmgirl Susan said...

Great story - loved reading this. And that mess reminds me of a very similar (and oh so delicious) one created with crab loving foodie friends not long before I moved away from my native SF Bay Area. No fresh Dungeness crabs here in rural Missouri, but sometimes it's better to simply feast on a perfect memory. Thanks for serving that one up again. : )

9:18 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Miss Wahoo said...

My Dad had friends with crab pots; I remember sitting on a rocky Padilla Bay beach, eating those freshly steamed, sweet Dungeness crab right then and there. And we usually got to take some home - for free! Nowadays, I buy them at the grocery store (usually QFC or Fred Meyer) but now I'll make a point of actually buying something at the store at Fisherman's Terminal, instead of just browsing.

I wonder if I could dash over there, buy a crab, eat it for lunch, and dispose of it without my husband ever finding out? Nah, that would be a terrible thing to do. But I'm definitely going to think about it...

9:47 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger kickpleat said...

we had dungeness crab one year for new years and made a ripe ol' mess. thank goodness for newspapers! we had key lime pie for dessert which was great, but i certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at chocolate chip cookies. mmmmm.

9:52 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Isabelle said...

I loved the part about eating blackberry pie in New Mexico. And meeting a guy in a grocery store.

Sometimes I dream of living in San Francisco. You were lucky!

I've never had Dungeness crab, but where I come from (East Coast of Canada) lobster is king. In fact we just had some the other night that was flown from NS to Alberta and it still tasted great!

Thanks for such a lovely post.

9:55 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Susan said...

Wow!
Molly, I read your fantastic homage to Dungeness crab and well, I HAD to comment! Have you ever tried Maryland Blues? These are the blue crabs dredged from the depths of the Atlantic; more specifically, the Chesapeake Bay and the inlets and tributaries that feed it. I’ve tried all kinds of crab and always come back to my Blues. These are not the small, bulbous “blue swimmer” crab, a type of crab is imported primarily from the Philippines and found on supermarket shelves and in “Maryland Style” crab cakes (ick).

Meat from the Maryland Blue crab possesses a mild and slightly sweet flavor. The texture of the meat is firm, especially the back fin “lump” meat. My grandmother frequently made crab cakes using Blue crab, and I have so many happy memories of outings with my dad to crab shacks along the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia) where we’d spread the long communal tables with brown paper before tossing out a bushel of crabs broiled with sea-salty-spicy Old Bay seasoning (A bushel is about 70; and that’s a lot of crab!) Once the crabs come, all conversation ceases and cracking, snapping, and sucking commences!

When you’re in NY for your book signing, I hope you can skip a couple states lower down to Delaware, to try some of these wonderful crabs. Served with drawn butter, they are the most decadent thing on Earth. One hint: The males, or “Jimmies,” are larger and have more meat then the females, or “Sooks,” but then they are also more expensive. As a Maryland transplant now living in NH, I really miss my Maryland Blues!

9:59 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger dp said...

A wonderful story. Your posts are really so nice to read. The part about your mom being a crab-leg sucker made me LOL. It's a notch better than being outed as shrimp-head sucker.

10:22 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Jill said...

As a Baltimore gal, I'm with you on crab..but out here we do the Maryland Blues. We order a bushel on a warm night in July every year and have neighbors over for a messy good time complete with Old Bay french fries and cold beer. The end of the evening resembles yours..a huge mess! Your fingers smell live crab for days but it is so worth it for that sweet crabmeat and good friends!

Longing for a July evening right now!

Lovely post as always!

Jill

10:51 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger MommyAmy said...

Oh man... I felt exactly the same way when I left Boston (where I went to college). Nervous, anxious, tight chested, like I would DIE if I left. But I didn't. And I'm so glad to be back home on the West coast. :)

10:56 AM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, it's crawfish season here...well, the very early beginning of it...and, same deal. Lots of newspaper, hot sauce instead of butter, heads to suck instead of claws. It feels wonderfully communal and somehow primitive...caveman-ish, Native American-ish. Thanks for the great story, too. You always surprise.

11:08 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Lisa said...

Oh, Molly! I love stories about moms. I love how you describe your own disbelief at your good fortune of living in San Francisco. I felt that way all the time in New York, and my chest still gets a little tight sometimes, thinking about it. And I would love some crab right now. We sometimes bought soft shell crab from in or near the Chesapeake Bay, from a stall at market called Buster's Seafood, which is pretty fun to say. Finding fresh seafood is a little tougher here, inland -- but we're also brand new here, and haven't tried very hard yet. I bet we'll find something.

This post seems very like Laurie Colwin to me. So I adore it even more.

11:29 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Bunnee said...

For years, I've served Dungeness crab for Christmas Day dinner. We have it with crusty bread, a green salad and a thousand island style dressing. I don't do anything to the crab but clean and pick it. My husband doesn't like getting messy, so I pick all the crab prior to dinner. Nothing like spending a couple hours on Christmas Day pulling crab out of legs and bodies - but, of course, you can snack along the way. For those who haven't had Dungeness - the meat is copious and quite unlike East Coast crabs which have fewer big chunks. Growing up in Seattle, I was such a picky and unadventurous eater, I would have never gone near crab, so now I have to make up for lost time.

11:57 AM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger jbeach said...

I am desperate to try Dungeness crabs! I'm with all the MD folk who love and adore blue crabs -- nothing better to me than a pile of steaming blue crabs doused in Old Bay and rock salt, coupled with good friends and chilly beer. Heaven...

Also, congratulations on your prominent mention in The Times'"50 of the world's best food blogs!" #1, woo hoo!!!! I loved your quotes in the article.

12:17 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I love, love, love this post. It's sad and sweet and vivid and sensual all at once--

A perfect cure for the blues that set in after the post-holiday return to work.

12:36 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger glamah16 said...

I grew up in Maryland eating Crabs and love them. My mother used to spoil me with my own( I was only child). Bliss. My boyriend doesnt get crabs, but when hes away. I treat myself. Thanks for reminding me why I love them.

12:41 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Alina said...

a mouthwatering post! thanks for sharing.

12:48 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Pink of Perfection said...

Love the image of you and your dad sharing a slice of blackberry pie.

1:28 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger ila said...

molly, all of your posts are always heart warming and beautiful, but this one really got me.
i was raised in the east bay area, so the only crab i ever ate was the dungeoness, usually the huge ones we bought at the fisherman's wharf on our family outings to the other side. now that i live in LA, i never eat fresh dungeoness anymore. i agree, crab does feel California, but for me it's more of a gloomy & sophisticated NorCal feeling, as opposed to the glitzy glammy beachy SoCal feeling.
this post made me want to cry and go home to my parents!

1:33 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Anne Zimmerman said...

Love it! I just moved to San Francisco in October and have enjoyed crab (and the mess it makes) several time since moving here. It is such fun -- crab makes the best dinner parties ever, though I imagine it could be pretty sexy for two.

1:50 PM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous dänika said...

Oh, Molly, this is so so beautiful. Your writing gets me every single time!

Also, hearty congratulations being sent your way! I was absolutely delighted to see you atop that list.

2:13 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger sK said...

molly - your post made me so happy and sad at the same exact time. i moved to SF right out of college and then, after 9 glorious years, decided it was time to go to grad school on the east coast. and here i remain 3+ years later, all the while dreaming about returning to the city i've adopted as home. and i love dungeness crab, even if the fiance thinks it's a royal pain in the arse.

2:15 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger The Single Gal said...

Molly,

Congrats on the great write up in the new issue of Sunset magazine (March '09)! They captured everything that's great about your blog-

3:45 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger natalia said...

this was such a lovely entry.
thank you for that.

4:42 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Jessica said...

OK, I really have to try Dungeness crab. I just moved to Seattle this year, but if I go through the entire crab season without ever having any, I think I will have to go back home in shame for not taking advantage of one of the best foods the area has to offer!

4:48 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger KSK said...

wow, this story rings familiar! grew up in Denver, stint in San Fran - did NOT want to leave! now in Seattle and love it here ('cept the clouds maybe). WHERE do you buy your dungeness crab? Do you like the university seafood place?

4:53 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger MODman said...

When I lived in Texas we had a similar event, Shrimp Gumbo. Newspaper covered that table, and shrimp gumbo was served by the scoop shovel full. Yes, I said scoop shovel. It was served for my dorm at college by our R.A. who was a bayou Cajun. Now I just need to experience the dunguness crab fete.

6:59 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Nikki said...

We have the same ritual when we head to the Oregon Coast. I need to try chocolate chip cookies after. For a more sophisticated event try all you can eat crab at Anthony's Homeport every Sunday!

7:32 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Val said...

Hi Molly.
I loved that post so much. Thanks for the mid-February-in-the-Pacific-Northwest inspiration. I needed that!

7:35 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Kumquat Connection said...

Molly,

Thank you for writing this.

It made my heart hurt a little. I am from San Francisco, and when I return for the winter holidays, I make sure to get my share of crab and family.

I waxed nostalgic about the SF bay area and crab after the holidays: http://www.kumquatconnection.com/kumquat_connection/2009/01/crab-and-christmas.html

Take care and enjoy the crab!

9:13 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Flame Thrower said...

I grew up in Vancouver, and yet I've never eaten this in my life! But I definitely know what I'm eating when I get back!
http://cookwithfire.blogspot.com/

9:34 PM, February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

#1 blog from the London Times best 50 food blogs and I get to be first to say congratulations?

Way to go, woohoo!

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/real_food/article5561425.ece

10:30 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger Reuben Morningchilde said...

Congrats to the top spot!

And well deserved, if I may add.

12:30 AM, February 18, 2009  
Anonymous Thimbleina said...

Oh now I feel so hungry, I haven't had crab in such a long while.

2:11 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger xtoph said...

one quibble--it's a shame to buy a good crab cleaned and *cracked*. most vendors (down at pike place market included) make a mess of the cracking part, and even if they're careful you'll still lose a lot of the juice.

but it's hard to go seriously wrong with a good crab.

4:42 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Bea said...

Mmmm, I haven't had Dungeness since my time out in Portland more than 14 years ago----I'm from the D.C. area so I was used to the sweeter, smaller crabs at the time, but I loved how easy it was to get the meat out! (Although we kind of used a sledgehammer at one point...)

5:18 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Lola said...

Truly a great story. Especially the tragic death at 22 part. I live in Italy most of the year, but I'm planning a summer visit to the Bay Area to hang out with part of my family living there. Disgruntled learning it's not crab season, darnit.

I'm wondering what the European equivalent of Dungeness crab is, perhaps Granseola (European spider crab), which I travel especially to Venice for in the Fall.
Thank you for your lovely entry.
Ciao

5:28 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Hillary said...

Great post, Molly -- made me ache for summer!

My husband's family has a cabin on Samish Island, near Bellingham (we actually got married at the cruise terminal the day before you), and we crab there almost every weekend in the summer. There is only open season for crabbing in the winter if quotas aren't met during summer season.

Bellingham Bay and Samish Bay usually opens Wednesdays through Saturdays starting in mid-July, plus the entire Labor Day weekend, and closes the last day of September.

We boil the crab in sea water, which frankly grossed me out at first, but it's how his family has been doing it since the early 1900s. I'm now officially hooked!

7:27 AM, February 18, 2009  
Anonymous Barbra said...

I, too, associate dungeness crab with family in San Francisco. Christmas eve with my aunt and uncle is synonymous with "crab feast." Delicious.

7:46 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Just Jen said...

I grew up in the Bay Area and I just love Dungeness crab.

I'd gladly clean up the mess if only I could participate in the eating!

9:15 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger mattatouille said...

I'm sure you've heard this 100 times before, but you are MFK Fisher, reborn. Lovely writing, I absolutely love the polaroid photos. You are one of my favorite blogs right now (my girlfriend just started one too, so I have to knod to that). Anyways, I'll be sure to keep reading and posting comments. Have a great day.

10:00 AM, February 18, 2009  
Anonymous frugan amy said...

A classic Orangette post - I loved it.

10:40 AM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Michelle Stiles said...

Living here in Bellingham, WA, we get our fix of crab. Late summer wouldn't be the same without cook outs in the front yard with crab.
I was so suprised when I heard the traditional cooking methods of crab on the East Coast difffered from that of the West Coast. Clean them before you eat them!!

12:26 PM, February 18, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Molly, I've been meaning to tell you how much I love the chocolate chip cookie recipe! I love the crabs too but I dare say those cookies made my boyfriend fall more in love with me than he was before. Thank you!

12:45 PM, February 18, 2009  
Anonymous KatieJ said...

You can now get Dungeness crab in Oklahoma! I live in OK City and we have this FABulous asian market here that has fresh and wonderful seafood. I saw Dungeness crabs a few weeks (or maybe longer) back. They also have the most blood red fresh ahi tuna you can imagine! It's the place to go for fresh fish!

1:54 PM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Mrs. Delicious said...

I grew up in Oregon, moved away for college, moved back to UC Berkeley and the first thing I did was get me a live Dungeness crab from the Berkeley farmer's market. I'm back in Connecticut now, and it is still one of the things I miss most about the west coast. Stone crabs, blue crabs, even lobster's got nothing on the Dungeness.

4:35 PM, February 18, 2009  
Anonymous Anna said...

OMG Molly!!! Congrats on the recognition from the London Times!!! Best food blog?!?!? ahhhhhhhh!!! I'm jumping out of excitement for you!

5:27 PM, February 18, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a great story about your chest getting tight....

but I have to totally disagree with you about buying your crab precooked. You should always buy your crab LIVE. Yes, that's not a 100% guarantee of quality, but its a *Better* sign of quality to but it live than to buy it precooked.

If you buy it live (and please buy it live ... actively moving .... and without missing claws) you will ensure that you got the freshest crab possible.

If you buy it precooked, then who knows if it was live when they cooked it? Moreover, who knows if its OVERcooked? Lastly, who knows how long ago it was cooked?

Buy it live!

5:34 PM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger Jenna said...

Your life story makes me feel a lot better about being 22 and not sure what I'm doing with my life. And makes me want to try Dungenenss crab.

6:50 PM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger the professionals said...

im sure you know about this but just incase

NUMBER ONE well done molly

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/real_food/article5561425.ece

7:02 PM, February 18, 2009  
OpenID kurelish said...

I was recently privy to a special event known as "garage beers." This occurs after my dad and his friends have been out to pull up the crab traps out of Hood Canal. They stand around a boiling pot in a freezing garage, and feed the newest batch of beautiful Dungeness into the water while sipping, most likely, an Icehouse, or maybe a Redhook ESB pulled from the special garage beer fridge. That was one great tasting beer, and the six crabs Dad sent me home with--DIVINE. We're lucky to live here, yeah?

10:21 PM, February 18, 2009  
Blogger eM said...

I left San Francisco for Seattle almost 5 years ago, and my heart aches for it everyday...
well, three days a week in the summer.
;-)

8:37 AM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Juree said...

I made Dungeness crabs on Valentines too! I made this recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Oven-Roasted-Dungeness-Crab-231591

it was really good, though next time I am going to use lemon instead of the oranges....

9:26 AM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Arlette said...

Congratulation Molly for the Times recognition as one of the top food blog .
you are making me hunger with your feast.
Arlette

12:22 PM, February 19, 2009  
Anonymous Hillary said...

I hadn't heard about dungeness crabs utnil I read about them on Amateur Gourmet and now I want to try one so badly!

12:52 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Kit said...

Just to add a note--you don't need crab or lobster picks to eat Dungeness crabs--they supply their own picks. Use the pointy end of one of the legs--not the claw. It works great. Also, we eat crab with mayonnaise (homemade) which we sometimes spike with curry and lemon.

1:14 PM, February 19, 2009  
Anonymous Alicia A. said...

molly. you are so good:

the story telling. the food. the recipes. the photographs.

all of it.

1:51 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Varsha Vipins said...

Just got here through Timesonline..Congrats on winning the award n I see you are so much worth it..I really enjoyed going thru your posts..I love Dungeness crab too..Keep 'em coming..[:)]

3:30 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Aleta said...

The best crab I ever ate was hauled out of my dad's crab pots on Coronet Bay off Whidbey Island in Washington. We rushed the crabs back to my dad's house and within an hour they were steaming in a propane-fired pot in his garage. I've eaten many crabs here in California, but none so sweet.

4:53 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger f said...

Your book just shipped out from Amazon!

So so thrilling. Congrats!

6:31 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger snappy said...

Your post made me think of the first time I ate crab... it was on Whitby Island and we set our own crab traps. Only problem, one pinched me and that was so painful, it made eating the crab so much easier.

8:07 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger pogm said...

Everytime you say 'Dungeness' it makes me think of the Dungeness here on the south coast of England near me. A windswept shingle beach overlooked by a nuclear power station. I'm sure it has its charms but its not quite the same ;-)
Pauline

3:23 AM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Marcia said...

Dungeness is wonderful in a simple salad too -- we moved to San Francisco from Chicago last year and had our first Dungie feast over the holidays where we re-created a Zuni Cafe salad. Delicious!
http://theaperitif.blogspot.com/2009/01/real-san-francisco-treat.html

7:39 AM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Katie said...

What a week for you! First the Times honor and now this morning I got notice from Amazon that your book is on its way!!! I can't wait. I am SO thrilled for you and can't wait to come out to support you when you start your book tour. Congrats, Molly!

7:43 AM, February 20, 2009  
OpenID Catie said...

Dee-light-ful!

And now I want crab for dinner.

9:17 AM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Molly said...

Hi, all!

First, thank you for the cheers about the Times Online thing! I was so surprised by those rankings. SO SURPRISED. I think I'm still blushing. Thank you!

And, your questions:

Michaela and KSK, I buy my crab - and almost all of my fish - at Wild Salmon Seafood Market, both the Queen Anne location and the Fisherman's Terminal location.

Beatrice, I bought those cups and plates from an antique store in Seattle. They were old Bavarian patterns, I think. I'm not sure where you could find them, but try scouring your local antique stores, or maybe eBay?

Susan, I have indeed had Maryland blue crabs! My mother grew up in Towson, just outside of Baltimore, and my parents met in Baltimore, so our family knows blue crab well. It is delicious, yes, for sure. But I love how sweet and meaty the Dungeness is. I guess I'm solidly a West Coast girl that way...

Anonymous, I've heard a number of different opinions on the issue of whether to buy Dungeness crab cooked or live, and there are pros and cons to both. When live crabs are kept in tanks in stores, they are not fed, so they often lose weight and succulence, a definite con. I generally choose to buy cooked ones from a source that I trust, a source that deals directly with fishermen (who often cook the crabs immediately after catching, on their boats), chooses the crabs carefully, and sells them as fresh as can be.

10:57 AM, February 20, 2009  
OpenID bevw said...

I miss crab. *weep* My childhood allergy to crustaceans came back with a vengeance a couple of summers back. Sweet, sweet crustaceans...

And let me add my congrats to you about the Times ranking. Very well deserved.

11:32 AM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Erin said...

Definitely one of my favorite things about growing up in the PNW!

12:34 PM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger shayna said...

gaw! i just got your book! i cannot wait to dig in....watch out friday night!

ps- it's gorgeous! photo, illustrations, everything! congratulations!

12:37 PM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger Jenifer@SeattleSoupLine said...

Thanks for reminding me where I live and the fortunate bounty around us. I also agree that the work of eating a crab is a part of the dining experience. Okay, now I'm going to go buy me pair!!!!

1:21 PM, February 20, 2009  
Anonymous Paula Maack said...

How fun. I can smell the mess in the first photo!

We did this over the holidays, and enjoyed it immensely, followed by trays of holiday baked goods. Yum!!

Fun read -- thank you!

Cheers,

~ Paula

1:36 PM, February 20, 2009  
Anonymous Paula Maack said...

P.S. For less mess, I bought crabmeat and made creamy crab canapes last night as a trial run for OSCAR night, which I posted about here, should you be interested.

~ Paula

1:41 PM, February 20, 2009  
Anonymous Paula Maack said...

Oh, and, I almost forgot...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Well done. Your are NUMERO UNO in the London Times Top 50 Food Blogs! Brava!!!!

Cheers,

~ Paula

1:50 PM, February 20, 2009  
Anonymous Karen said...

Woe is me, I haven't had Dungeness crab in years. We too used to eat it in season when I was growing up in the SF Bay Area--for kids, the mess is half the fun.

8:50 PM, February 20, 2009  
Blogger artful said...

Oh my, your tale just brought me back to an earlier life when we lived in downtown San Francisco--an apartment on Nob Hill opposite Grace Cathedral--$250/month--in the 1960s. We would walk down to the wharf and buy a Dungeness crab (or two) and a bottle of wine, make a salad, and that was dinner, complete with the newspaper. Messy, but nothing quite like it. Thanks for bringing back those days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and people around the globe actually liked Americans.

6:42 AM, February 21, 2009  
Blogger gail said...

A delicious mess at that!!

7:50 AM, February 21, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm allergic to shellfish - which takes a whole lot of the fun out of going home to MA. No lobster rolls, no clam chowder, I get to watch everybody else feast.

The last time I ate shellfish on purpose was in Baltimore and it was a crab feast. Sooo good - not worth dying for - but close.

10:48 AM, February 21, 2009  
Blogger Nerissa said...

We are blessed with Dungeness here on the Canadian West Coast too. Went out on a professional retreat one day on a local fisherman's boat. We got back to the boat just as the large pot of water was boiling and the squirming crab traps were hauled on board. On the way back home we were all suck crab legs and enjoying the sweetest crab flesh I'd ever had. This, btw, was in late spring. Not sure if our season is different further north.

12:21 AM, February 22, 2009  
Anonymous willamettevalley said...

Crab, family, friends and Django. What could be better?

My mother passed away a year and half ago and two (of many) fond memories I have are:
**Her visits to see me in Oregon when we would feast together on a Dungeness crab, savoring every morsel
**A visit to see her in California and our drive to Santa Cruz. We stopped at a bakery, purchased a loaf of warm sourdough bread, started driving down the road... then decided to pull over and enjoy the deliciousness of fresh baked bread. We sat in the car tearing off pieces from the loaf and laughing like naughty children.

8:30 AM, February 22, 2009  
Blogger majmily's said...

what a lovely mess!

10:34 AM, February 22, 2009  
Anonymous christy said...

i saw your book in Borders yesterday! i can't wait to read it. have a great week :-)

10:02 PM, February 22, 2009  
Anonymous Shelley (Pink House) said...

Well I grew up in Portland, Oregon and grew up eating Dungeness crab ALL THE TIME! and my dad would come home with a couple of cooked, cold ones and we'd spread the paper and get the salt shaker (NO butter - only lobster needs that) and pull, pick and slurp. to this day I love it but sadly I live in Montana now where the only way I can get it is by the grace of Costco. Whenever I go to Portland or Seattle I must have whatever crab is on the restaurant menus.Love it. Just had a party this weekend where I spent about 8 eights in preparation to make crab cakes from scratch...so much work. Especially for enough for 40 people.

10:17 PM, February 22, 2009  
Blogger Jillian said...

Congratulations on your shout-out in Sunset Magazine! I was inspired to have some crab to celebrate my research lab passing inspection last Thursday, but whole foods had none :(
Can't wait to dig into your book!

11:15 AM, February 23, 2009  
Blogger mich said...

your book is coming TODAY!!!! (this causes great excitement inside of me, in case the !!!! did not give that away)

11:58 AM, February 23, 2009  
Blogger Caffeinated said...

Hi Molly!!

Congratulations on all your success - Amazon delivered my copy of your book today and it is BEAUTIFUL! I'm looking forward to your reading here in Seattle next week - warmest wishes and congrats again!

2:54 PM, February 23, 2009  
Anonymous Maija said...

I spent that same weekend enjoying crab myself - I went and hung out at my parents' house on Willapa Harbor on the coast of WA. They're out of town for a month, so their fridge was bare. What could be an easier dinner than crab in the shell? To me, crabs also relate to the holidays - there's usually one around Christmas and I've started a tradition of crabs on New Year's. Probably one of things I'd miss the most if I ever left the NW. Oh, that, and oysters, too - I brought a pint back with me to Portland to enjoy.

3:35 PM, February 23, 2009  
Anonymous Carolyn Jung said...

For my last meal in life, Dungeness crab would definitely have to be on the menu. I would take it any day over lobster. It wouldn't even be a close call.

8:42 PM, February 23, 2009  
Blogger Wesa said...

I got your book today too!

8:47 PM, February 23, 2009  
Anonymous melissab. said...

your writing is superb!!!

5:02 AM, February 24, 2009  
Blogger LC said...

Hey Molly, that scene in the top photo is very familiar: newspaper, shell middens, general chaos. I love a good crab feed. Beer is a crucial element because you don't want your guests to feel self-conscious about cracking claws and making a mess.

Nice meeting you & Brandon last night. Looking forward to your Wednesday reading!

Cheers,
Lang

9:24 AM, February 24, 2009  
Blogger smartcookie said...

The first time I ever met my boyfriend's parents was last summer when they were flying from Oregon to New York. When they got off the plane at 11pm, his mom was carrying 5lbs. worth of Dungeness crabs. We got back to Brooklyn and such as you did, covered our table in newspaper, and proceeded to stay up until 3:30 in the morning eating crabs and drinking wine. It is one of my favorite memories of New York...bringing a little west coast to the east coast. Thanks for the wonderful post!

11:49 AM, February 24, 2009  
Anonymous Aimee said...

That's funny...my husband and I had a big ole crab boil Saturday night too! Used our turkey fryer to steam them (it was the biggest pot we had in the house!) the crab was wonderful and I saved the shells and made stock with them Sunday morning. I really don't know what I'm going to do with the stock yet....but it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time!

12:51 PM, February 24, 2009  
Blogger Bangkok Thai Restaurant said...

Hi Molly - just read through your FAQ and figured I'd comment. Just started a blog for a local Thai restaurant in my area and was hoping to establish some relationships with other food blogs here on Blogspot. Go check us out - http://bangkokthairestaurant.blogspot.com/. At the very least, perhaps you can offer some suggestions for effective food blogging! By the way - love crabs and am intrigued by Dungeness crab, which I have never had. Sounds amazing!

3:45 PM, February 24, 2009  
Blogger kmander said...

Dear Molly

I came home to find a copy of your book waiting on me two nights ago. I immediately tore open the package and stood at my counter still wearing jacket and backpack, reading until I the weight pulled me down. Then I set it down until I could devote it some serious attention. Tonight felt like the perfect time, a bit under the weather, and love every word. I've read your blog for a while now, tried many of your recipes, and wanted to say thank you for sharing it all.
Thank you!
Katie

6:08 PM, February 24, 2009  
Blogger Kate@ Kids and Cocktails said...

Thanks to your wonderful post, I've been inspired to throw a crab/shrimp boil for my husband's birthday this year. Thank you!

6:59 PM, February 24, 2009  
Blogger Ashley Bishop said...

Delightful Blog!

I grew up in Alabama and spent many an evening gathered around the table covered in newspaper, butter running down my chin and a big glass of sweet tea at my elbow - but our crustacean was, of course, gulf shrimp! To me, the shrimp boil is "home" - well, "home with butter!"

Later I would live in New Orleans and experience the even messier delight of crawfish boils, and a juicier, spicier, head-suckinger mess you've never encountered.

I guess every coastal state has its newspaper & butter crustacean tradition. Thanks for sharing! :)

7:10 AM, February 25, 2009  
Anonymous lihsia wang said...

an alternative to melted butter, and actually better for cold crab is grated fresh ginger in vinegar--a Chinese choice!

10:19 PM, February 27, 2009  
Blogger Sarah Jane said...

That is a HECK of a lot of fun. You made that entire meal and cookies sound tooooo good.
p.s. I'm am enchanted by your nonchallant-looking photos.

10:59 PM, February 27, 2009  
Blogger Susan said...

I think this may be my first comment here though I've been reading a long time :) I can't believe how similar our stories are (I also went to Cal for undergrad and am currently here at UW for grad school) and look forward to your book event tomorrow evening! I love how you're not afraid to post pictures of the aftermath of a crab eating fest, wee!

2:23 PM, March 02, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Kodiak, Alaska, after many years in Northern California where a December meal of Dungeness crab marked the beginning of the Christmas season. We live-backed them on a redwood fence in the backyard and served them on a tablecloth on the floor accompanied by melted garlic butter, sourdough French bread and salad. I had a friend who made a remarkable tomato crab fennel soup. King crab has nowhere near the refined taste and texture of Dungeness. I am so inspired to make your scallop soup with Alaska scallops!

8:58 PM, March 03, 2009  
Blogger ... said...

I'm allergic to all seafoods. I took my special lady to SF once for her birthday, and she sprayed crab juice all in my eye and then kept eating while I tried to stay out of the hospital. Anyways, nice blog. Can I ask where you score your poloroid film? I'm looking for a good source.

Thanks!

TLH

2:48 PM, March 06, 2009  
Anonymous Ross Donaldson said...

Hello!

This article... brought me up short. It's the first thing of yours I've read, and I feel silly about that. Two years ago I tried to find good food blogs; I asked Google, my friends, everybody, but nobody could suggest any. Yesterday, feeling awesome and cool about my own, fledgeling food blog, I Googled "best food blog." The NYT Top 50 popped up. "Oh dear," I thought, "I'm late to the party."

Yours is the top of the list; for reasons not worth going in to here, I mistrust top rated things. And then... I read this, and got a little choked up remembering my own leaving home, my own college experience.

You write beautifully. Staggeringly beautifully. I resent the enormous number of vapid recipe blogs; you seem to know what food writing is all about. Brava! I'm glad I found this.

Best,
Ross Donaldson

7:06 PM, March 07, 2009  
Blogger Molly said...

TLH, I've been buying my Polaroid 600 film from B&H. It's expensive, but the price is pretty good, compared to other places online. And as for Polaroid Spectra film, I've stopped buying it. You can still find it online - do a Google search, or try eBay - but it's gotten too expensive for me. Good luck!

Ross, you made day. Thank you.

3:27 PM, March 08, 2009  
Anonymous Constance said...

I had a south american friend who always thought that we had "Dangerous Crabs" and was slightly afraid of them...

7:10 PM, March 25, 2009  
Blogger rachel said...

I love the picture of the crab mess!

11:56 PM, April 08, 2009  
Blogger Owlwings said...

I'm sorry to comment randomly! I came here for asparagus ideas and found that you are an asparagus aficionadao. Much as I love asparagus au naturel, I was so taken by your asparagus 'flan' (really more of a custard, to my way of thinking) that I had to try it. I don't know whether I did it according to your standards but it certainly earned me some gracious comments!

However, what I really came here to say was that I have placed your RSS feed on my page next to FXCuisine - http://fxcuisine.com/ - (which, if you haven't already encountered, I really think you should!)

Here in the UK the best crab probably comes from Cromer, on the Eastern bulge, but I think it is basically the same as your Dungeness crab! It also goes remarkably well with asparagus.

8:35 AM, April 14, 2009  

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