Who says there is no free lunch? Well there is in BC if you get a tidal
waters fishing licence for $21/year. With a licence, you may catch and bring home four Dungeness crabs every day for lunch or dinner actually so long as they are male and more than 6 1/2 inches in size.
So a few of our Victoria friends bought a small aluminum boat and a couple crab traps. They buy the bait by the bucket at the Esquimalt fish plant, mostly salmon and halibut that would make a really nice Bouillabaisse if you ask me, but nothing’s too good for the crabs. The traps are lowered in Cadboro Bay, they go for a drink, and one hour later, the Dungeness have fought to slither sideways through the small entrance to the trap. They release the females, each guy keeping the catch of his own trap, and come home with the hunter gatherer’s bounty.
Live crabs. What do we do now? For myself, I wear thick workman’s
gloves as I got pinched and it hurts so much. Moreover, the crabs don’t release until they are dead or you severe the claw, not so easy to deal with when they are holding your fingers for ransom. So you catch them and hold them from behind, then kill them with a strong impact on the centre of the bottom shell. Now it is okay to pry the legs off the body and discard the shells.
The fresher the better, so by then I have my largest stock pot boiling with a broth of salted water with a tbsp vinegar, half an onion, half a bayleaf, a clove garlic, a sliced carrot and whole pepper corns. The blue over-sized Le Creuset pot is a gift from my daughter Céline and makes eating crab a lot less messy.
I drop the purple colour crab legs in the pot for 5 minutes exactly, then drain and splash with cold water for 10 seconds. This is meant to detach the meat from the shells. The crabs are now a bright red.
Serve with garlic butter, lemon butter, aioli or just plain. One crab per person is a good portion. Crab is very rich so I do not recommend to have it with a cream sauce. The flavour is very delicate, more so than lobster, and it is best just poached or on the BBQ.
Tip: bag all the shells in a tight bag after lunch and take the garbage out.