Cleaning Dungeness Crab

Cleaning Dungeness Crab

To cook and clean four Dungeness crabs: Bring 7 quarts salted water or court bouillon (water, salt, halved lemons, white vinegar, red pepper flakes, pickling spice, and bay leaves, boiled together, then cooled) to a simmer.

Pick up a live crab by its last 2 hind legs. Hold them together tightly and stroke the top of the head just behind the mouth until the crab falls asleep. Lower into the pot slowly taking care not to scald yourself. Simmer the crabs until they turn pink, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and let them rest on their backs until cool enough to handle.

Twist the legs off the body. Crack lightly in several places with a nutcracker and set aside. Holding the body backside up, place your right thumb in the joint between the upper and lower shell on the side opposite the mouth. Your palm will be stretched across the top of the shell. Hold the bottom of the crab in your opposite hand. Force your thumb in and pull up and back to your right until shell snaps off. Pour any juices in the shell into a small bowl.

Scrape the contents of the shell into a bowl. Snap the rest of the face off the upper shell, and rinse out the shell. If you intend to use it for presentation, pull off and discard the spongy lungs clinging to both sides of the upper body. Turn the body over and snap off and discard the hard, V-shaped sex. (If it is large, the crab is a female. If small, male.) Scrape the liver and green tomalley into a bowl with the juices from the shell, and reserve.

Snap off the rest of the face by inserting your thumb deeply into the hole behind the face and pulling back and up. Cut the body into quarters and put in a bowl with the legs.

To make a sauce with the reserved liquids, push them through a sieve into a saucepan and cook with a pinch of saffron and dry white wine. Simmer until very reduced. To make a dip, stir this sauce into mayonnaise and season with red pepper flakes, raw garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and finely chopped fresh parsley.