The summer Dungeness crab fishing season is now in full swing in most parts of Puget Sound and Hood Canal, and Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas offers words of wisdom on how to prepare them for the dining table.
This season we’ll have weekly recipes and advice through October on how to cook up and dish out a wide variety of local seafood by experts like Anthony’s Restaurant; Tiffany Haugen, Outdoor Cooking expert/author; tackle shop owners; local seafood-market owners; and fishing guides and charter services.
Douglas is owner of Assembly Hall; Brave Horse Tavern; Cuoco; Dahlia Lounge; Dahlia Bakery; Etta’s; Home Remedy; Lola; Palace Kitchen; Rub With Love Shack; Seatown; Serious Pie Westlake; Serious Biscuit Westlake; Serious Pie Virginia; and Tanaka San.
Here is Douglas’ advice on how to prepare them, and wow your guests at the next meal:
Sweet, delicious Dungeness crab is always a treat. Who doesn’t love digging into a plate of crab cakes or going after a chilled cracked crab with crab cracker, cocktail fork and a plastic bib for protection? But sometimes, a chilled bottle of white wine and a cool, fresh-tasting salad piled with Dungeness crabmeat is what really hits the spot on a summer evening.
Dungeness Crab Salad has been on the menu at Etta’s since we opened the doors. Soft Bibb lettuce leaves, slices of ripe avocado, segments of ruby grapefruit, and a generous pile of picked crabmeat are always in the mix. In the early summer we add poached and chilled asparagus spears, which pair perfectly with crabmeat. We used to dress this salad with a simple lime vinaigrette made of fresh lime juice, lime zest, a little grated fresh ginger and a mild flavored oil.
These days, Chef Adrienne dresses Etta’s crab salad with a light, zippy nuoc cham of fresh lime juice, Asian fish sauce, rice vinegar and a bit of minced jalapeno, which highlights the briny sea flavor of the crab without smothering its delicate sweetness. With a loaf of crusty bread, this makes the perfect weekend lunch or light summer dinner.
In my “Big Dinners” cookbook, I recreated my mother’s recipe for crab dip. The creamy dressing for this dip, made with mayonnaise, tomato paste, a touch of honey, sliced chives, lemon juice and zest, horseradish and Tabasco is reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing. The secret ingredient is a spoonful of seeded and minced sweet red cherry pepper from a jar of vinegar packed sweet cherry peppers.
Sometimes, instead of using this dressing to make mom’s crab dip, I’ll use it instead for that retro classic West Coast salad, the Crab Louie. For my version of a Crab Louie, place neat piles of Bibb lettuce leaves on chilled plates. Add to each plate an avocado half, half of a deviled egg, and a few strips of warm bacon. Add a generous pile of picked fresh crabmeat to each plate, then either drape a large spoonful of my mom’s dressing over each salad or pass the dressing separately. This makes for a perfect summer supper out on the deck or patio. Again, you can’t go wrong adding to the table a loaf of crusty bread and a chilled bottle of your favorite white.