I’ve always lived near the sea and my favorite meals come from its bounty. Garlic Roasted Crab (Καβούρι με Σκόρδο στο Φούρνο) Adapted from Tra Vigne Restaurant ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When I was a kid we regularly dug clams; littlenecks (Protothaca staminea) and razors (Siliqua patula) were our favorites. We feasted on salmon my dad brought home from fishing expeditions with his friends. When we went out to dinner, I only ordered shrimp.
I was happiest when my dad brought out his lantern and hip waders because it meant we soon would have Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) for dinner. Its sweet delicate meat is one of my favorite foods.
I’d been of the opinion that the best way to eat Dungeness crab is unadulterated. Crab cakes with the leftovers are fine, but when it is fresh, plain boiled crab was my preparation of choice.
Then I had Garlic Roasted Crab at Tra Vigne, a restaurant in St. Helena, California, the heart of California wine country. The crab came ready cracked, and was richly dressed with garlic, butter, and parsley. It was as good as any crab I’d ever had before; maybe better.
I interrogated the waiter about how the chef made Garlic Roasted Crab, and investigated further on the internet when I returned home. Although I still love plain boiled crab and eat it often, Tra Vigne’s Garlic Roasted Crab now appears regularly on our dinner table.
Because the garlic is roasted, it does not overwhelm the sweet flavor of Dungeness crab. I stir in parsley shortly before the crab comes out of the oven to give the parsley a little crunch and mute its herby flavor. The combination of the ingredients’ tastes and textures enhances the crab’s naturally good flavor, something I would not have thought possible before I visited Tra Vigne.
You don’t need silverware to eat Garlic Roasted Crab, but you do need plenty of napkins!
Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as an appetizer
Dungeness crab should be alive when it goes into the boiling water; the crab has more flavor if you don’t clean it before you cook it.
2 live Dungeness crabs
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put in the live crabs. Cook for 12 minutes. (The crab is only partially cooked because it will be oven-roasted; it takes 15 - 20 minutes, depending on the size, to fully cook Dungeness crab.) Remove the crab from the boiling water, and run it under cold water to cool it down. When the crab is cool enough to handle, remove the back, gills, and guts. With cold running water, carefully rinse off any guts that are sticking to the crab meat. (The crab may be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for 24 hours).
Preheat the oven to 500 °F.
Break the crab bodies in half down the center. With your hands, carefully remove the legs and claws, leaving the bodies intact. Use your hands to break the bodies in half again (in other words, the full body of each crab is broken into four pieces). Using a nut cracker or lobster cracker, carefully crack open each section of the crab legs and claws; try to keep each leg and claw in one piece. Put the crab in a large roasting pan.
Melt the butter. Drizzle the butter and olive oil over the crab, and sprinkle it with minced garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Thoroughly toss the crab with the other ingredients so that all the pieces of crab are coated.
Roast the crab for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the parsley over the crab and toss again. Return the crab to the oven for 2 minutes.
Place the crab on a large serving platter and serve immediately with napkins and an empty bowl for the shells.
Garlic Roasted Crab (Καβούρι με Σκόρδο στο Φούρνο)
Adapted from Tra Vigne Restaurant