There’s a man in my hometown here in the Hudson Valley who defines the word “local.” He’s been a local forever. He is this place. He has a commercial crab operation that he runs from the pier and he brings in all sorts of blue crabs every day. He drives his truck around and it says “Crabman” on it. And he has a little hand written sign on the telephone pole outside of his house that says “Crabs for Sale.”
My dad has known him for quite a long time and we were driving by the other day during my visit here, and I asked him about the crabs being advertised on the telephone pole. “Oh that’s Ray,” he said. “I’ve known him forever, he’s such a character.”
I gave Ray a ring.
I inquired about his crabs.
“I’m having a party for my brother and I want crabs!” I exclaimed.
He told me to come by on Sunday at 10am when his boat will have come in from the Hudson. And so I did, and there was Ray wearing his t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and looking very jolly. I think it was a successful crab day for him.
I brought them home and it turns out Ray’s crabs are characters too.
They were… how shall we say… mean little bastards!
First off, they exploded out of their paper bag and scurried around on the floor.
Then when we gave them a rinse they formed a crab chain.
So we put them in a basket and they tried to jump ship.
It was a battle.
The claws came out.
Oh how I crack myself up.
But once we got a pot of boiling water going… it was time.
And the crab chains were dropped in one by one.
Some of the chains were very long. I thought they were going to dance the mambo along the floor.
When they were cooked, they weren’t so blue anymore, they were a beautiful bright orange.
This was fun. Newspaper and 24 crabs to be cleaned and picked among friends. That’s my idea of a fun summer birthday party.
I made some clams too… since I had called the party a clam bake.
And we threw in lobster for good measure.
I love lobster. It is so darn rich.
I like the claws the best, how about you?
And there was some super rockin grilled corn with cheese, and bacon and cilantro. (Recipe soon!)
But without further ado, I’d love to show you how to clean a crab body. Since my brother’s friends asked for a tutorial, I thought perhaps some of you out there would like to know too… in case you have an eccentric crab man in your home town from which to procure crabs.
How to Clean a Crab:
This is the top of the crab body.
This is the underbelly.
The strange little pointy thing is what I call a “lever.”
1. Pull the lever back. It is attached to the top orange shell.
2. Pull it back more. Until you begin to bend it in the opposite direction from which Mother Nature intended.
3. As you do, stick your thumb under the orange top shell and pull the whole thing off.
4. There is a mustard colored gook in there. There are also lungs on either side, which you can see as those pointy white triangles. The lungs should be pulled off.
5. Then you rinse the gook in a bowl of clean water.
6. Once it is rinsed, it will look beautiful like this.
7. Break the body in half right down the middle.
8. Then tap each half with a nut cracker, a hammer, a rock or whatever hard heavy object you please.
9. Inside there is the most luscious chunks of sweet crab meat.
10. Please, please, please, immediately dip it in garlicy, spicy, melted butter and consume.
11. You can also crack the claws and smaller legs and suck out the meat. Or you can use it as a nose ornament.
This is my favorite kind of summer party. Full of hammers and nut crackers and food pulled apart across newspaper! What’s your favorite kind of party?