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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

August 14, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Seattle chef Tom Douglas cracks plenty of tips on Dungeness crab

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The summer Dungeness crab fishing seasons are going strong throughout the Puget Sound region, many will be bring home their catch to prepare for a wonderful seafood dining experience.

Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas will contribute some of his tasty cooking advice and recipes for the Reel Time Fishing NW blog in our Catch of the Week each Wednesday through October. Catch of the Day will also include recipes from other local chefs, tackle shop owners and fish-market owners.

Douglas is owner of Lola, Palace Kitchen, Dahlia Lounge, Dahlia Bakery, Etta’s, Serious Pie Downtown, Seatown, Brave Horse Tavern, Cuoco, Serious Biscuit and Serious Pie Westlake. Another new Douglas restaurant that just opened is Tanaka San at the Via6 Apartment Complex in downtown Seattle.

Here are some suggestions by Chef Tom Douglas on how to serve Dungeness crabs:

The simplest way to prepare Dungeness crabs is to boil them in the shell and set them in front of your guests with crab crackers or crab hammers, cocktail forks and plenty of napkins.  But if you’re up to the prep task of picking the cooked crabmeat out of the shell, or if you’re willing to pay the price for a tub of picked crabmeat, then a batch of crab cakes may be in your future.

I’ve been serving crab cakes at my joints for the last 35 years, ever since I moved here from Delaware, which happens to be mid-Atlantic crab cake country.  It astonished me that, despite the region’s plentiful supply of sweet, meaty Dungeness, I couldn’t at the time find one damn crab cake on a Seattle restaurant menu.   These days, of course, the crab cake is a national phenomenon, popular from coast to coast.

Some versions of crab cakes are mostly crabmeat lightly bound with egg, but I’m a firm believer that a crab cake should contain bread crumbs.  For many years, cheap supermarket white bread was my go-to choice for making the bread crumbs.

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Combine those soft, fluffy breadcrumbs with fresh, pristine crabmeat including plenty of big chunks of claw and leg meat, just the right amount of mayo to hold things together, and enough seasoning to liven up the sweetness of the crab, and you have created a perfect crab cake.

These days most of my chefs prefer to use panko, Japanese bread crumbs, instead of white bread, and the coarser textured panko does give the crab cakes a nice crisp coating when they are fried.

A few more tips:  If your crabmeat is wet, squeeze the excess moisture out gently with your hands before you make crab cakes so the cakes aren’t soggy.  It’s always a good idea to chill your crab cake mixture for a few hours, or even overnight, before frying because they’ll hold together better.  Also, frying your crab cakes in whole butter rather than clarified butter or oil makes them rich tasting and crisp without being greasy.

If you’re not in the mood for crab cakes, try a creamy crab dip with mayo and “thousand island” flavors like small spoonfuls of tomato paste and honey, some chopped hard cooked egg, and a few minced sweet cherry peppers.  This is reminiscent of a crab dip my mom makes, though Mom served hers with Ritz crackers, and I like to serve mine with homemade potato chips.

Or do as my Seatown cooks do and make an outrageously good crab BLT with pickled green tomatoes, sweet Dungeness crabmeat, and crisply fried strips of bacon.

 

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