Saturday, June 02, 2007

You've Got Crabs

Today I got to partake in a truly unique eastern-shore experience. I went to a high-school graduation party with The Girl for her third cousin (or something - I'm not quite sure how the extended family schematics work, as most of my family - extended or otherwise - really aren't on speaking terms).
Anyway, The Girl's family - blah, blah, blah... The real story here is that they chose to celebrate the occasion with a crab boil.
Whoo-Hoo, Motherfucking crab boil!
It's taken me the better part of a decade living in Maryland to figure out how to eat those goddamned things, but now I've gotten the hang enough to give all of you inlanders the basics on how to consume whole blue crab.

First off, take out a second mortgage out on your house because a bushel full of mostly inedible shell costs an ass-load and a half. Yeah, you buy writhing live crabs by the fucking bushel just like apples. They actually call blue crabs "Maryland Apples". Okay, well... I do.
I would highly recommend that you don't take the crabs home on the subway. I'm speaking from experience here. And if one happens to get loose from the bushel, it's better just to let it go and pretend that uppity fucking crab was running around loose in the subway car before you got on the train with your basket of well-behaved crabs. If you do have to go this route, be sure to have the number of a friend with a car to get you the rest of the way after you get kicked off of the train.

When you get to the destination (after waiting in the hot blazing sun with a basket full of stinkin' crustaceans for over an hour waiting for your worthless buddy to show up at the Metro stop), dump the bushel in the tub and run some water to determine your live-to-dead crab ratio. After putting all the dead ones in the "give to suck-friends" pile, grab a HUGE lobster/corn/etc. pot (with steamer) and throw it on top of a flaming charcoal grill.
While you're waiting for that to boil, set up gladiator matches and/or crab races to determine the most fit (and therefore most delicious) of the bushel. Tip: Whiskey and wagering increases the entertainment value of this portion tenfold.

Okay, the pot has boiled over three times, you're seeing triple, and you've lost your last fifty dollars in the Miss Crab USA beauty-pageant, so it's time to start cooking those little bastards. Carefully remove the crabs from the tub taking special precaution not to get pinched.
Run around the house screaming with a half-dozen fucking crabs hanging from all parts of your bloodied hand. Note: Pouring whiskey on them will not make them let go, but does add a nice flavor to the boil once you manage to rip them off of your mangled appendage. Boil those motherfuckers first as an example to the rest of the group. Employ the 'basket and tongs' approach to avoid any further injury.
Drop 'em in the steaming basket, wait until they go from brownish-blue to bright red, pull 'em out, put 'em in a big cardboard box, and cover thoroughly with Old Bay seasoning (make sure to buy the big-ass restaurant-sized container). Repeat until all of the tub is empty, and the crab that ran off to somewhere under the couch has been located and neutralized.

Now it's time to figure out how to eat these damned things. You'll need a wooden mallet, a butter knife, loads of paper towels, and at least 3 years of advanced biology. First rip off all of the legs and give up on getting any meat out of those after 15 minutes of pure failure. Next remove the claws and use the butter knife and the mallet (think hammer and chisel) to put cracks in the middle of all of the meaty bits. Crack open (making sure to drive the sharp spikes covering the claws deep into your fingers) and consume the meaty bits. The proper 'dip' for Maryland blue crab isn't drawn butter, but a mix of vinegar and Old Bay - It's fucking delicious and stings the open wounds much more effectively.
Now it's time to crack the fucker open. Turn the carapace over and locate the 'apron'. Pull the pin down and off. Resist temptation to yell out "CRUSTATION IN THE HOLE!" and huck it at someone across the table.
Now that the apron has been removed, jam your thumb between the carapace and the abdomen and rip 'em asunder. Throw the carapace on the shell pile, scrape the gills off with the butter knife, and cut out the lower 'v' where the 'mustard' lies. Some people think that the 'mustard' is the best part of the crab - Those people are gross weirdos. Cut the remaining abdomen in two (you should have two small white sections) now pick through the thin inner shells in a futile search for edible meat.
If you've done everything correctly, you should have about 3 tablespoons worth of edible meat, a huge pile of shells, and bloody hands. This should take just under 15 minutes per crab. Repeat 10 to 20 times, or just give up and grab a hot-dog from the kids table.
Shell-Pile Aftermath

The Girl's family was smart and got the crabs steamed and seasoned at the market. This is a huge time-saver, and definitely the way to go if you're not drinkin'. Also, I should mention that you need to eat blue crabs OUTSIDE (preferably on a newspaper-covered picnic table) unless you want your entire house to reek like crab innards for the next decade, and be picking bits of crab shell out of your feet for weeks on end.
Even better, find a good restaurant that sells soft-shell crabs and just eat the whole damned deep-fried motherfuckers shell and all.

The whole rigmarole sounds like a huge ordeal, but is really a lot of fun (and delicious to boot). Today's boil was alcohol-free (back in my day, graduation parties were... insert olde-tyme drinkin' story here), so I only had the patience for 5 or 6 crabs before I resorted to the aforementioned hot-dog option. Now my crab appetite has been piqued, and I may have to throw a crab bender sometime this summer.

I'll be givin' 5-to-1 odds on crab #8 to win it all.


edP said...

Your crabs got loose on the train

edP said...

I have read this shit three times. Hilarious. When will you post the video of your crab boil?

Michael K said...

Too much work for very little actual food.