Sustainable Stone Crab: Everybody Must Get Stoned
We’re pretty sure Bob Dylan wasn’t talking about stone crabs when he wrote the oddly named “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” (though the common association probably isn’t right either). But during stone crab season, we recommend that Floridians take his advice and enjoy a few (or more) tasty claws.
Stone crabs, a coveted delicacy, adorn our plates and delight our palates from October 15 through May 15. These brownish-gray crustaceans are found in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and around Cuba and the Bahamas, but ask most people and the two species that are Florida stone crabs are usually considered the best.
Since the stone crab body is too small to eat, they are truly a sustainable seafood – strict regulations restrict crabbers to twisting off only one claw at a time and only non-egg bearing females can have their claw harvested. With one claw left, the crab can still crack open shells to feed and can defend itself against predators until its second claw regenerates to its original size, which can take from several months up to three years.
State law requires the crab claws be boiled immediately after harvest, and claws are sold fresh-cooked or frozen. Buy fresh-cooked claws that have a mild, sea-breeze aroma, store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator or on ice, and be sure to use within two days of purchase. If you must buy frozen, thaw them in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours – don’t try to rush the thawing by leaving the claws at room temperature or running them under water, you’ll affect both texture and taste.
As with most crabs, these crustaceans boast high protein, low saturated fat, vitamin B12, magnesium and anti-inflammatory minerals such as selenium. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you may want to avoid or limit their consumption – stone crabs are very high in cholesterol and high in sodium.
Stone crab is typically served in the shell as an eye-catching dish with distinctive red and black of the boiled claw tips attached to an enticing bite of crab. These firm, sweet-tasting bits of goodness need no frills or fillers and are mostly served solo: cold with a side of mustard sauce, or heated and paired with melted butter.
While seafood restaurants throughout the area serve fresh stone crabs during the season, the claws are best served cold, so we can’t think of an easier at-home seafood entrée. Visit your favorite fish market, and ask for the claws cracked; most fishmongers will do this for you, which means you’ll just need to pick off the bits of shell and enjoy.
SERVE IT UP!
Set the table with small seafood forks (so you’ll get every bit of crabby goodness) and a few bowls for the shells, then serve up a platter of claws. Accompany them with this sauce for dipping and a Florida-fresh fennel and grapefruit salad, then add some crusty bread from your favorite bakery to round out a simple but delicious meal.