First of all, let me just say that I am from Maryland. As in, I’ve been eating crabs since before I had teeth.
And, I have to hand it to you non-natives who come to crab-eating later in life. Crabs ain’t pretty. They look like big, red spiders with dangly legs and bug eyes. And, they have things called dead man’s fingers and some yellow stuff called mustard. What’s not to love?
The scientific name pretty much sums it up: Callinectes sapidus The first word is from the Greek for beautiful swimmer, and the second is from the Latin for savory. They are indeed beautiful, tasty swimmers.
It’s when they hit the steam pot that the trouble begins. I’ve read recipes that call for using water and/or vinegar. Heresy!
Here’s the secret recipe: crabs, beer and a very liberal dose of Old Bay brand seasoning. Period.
I do not give a crab’s claw what any so-called celebrity chef, or anyone else for that matter, says to the contrary. The only other thing permitted in the crab pot is corn on the cob, preferably of the Silver Queen variety.
Now that we’ve gotten that straight, I have to address the flagrant and wanton misuse of the crab mallet.
Just because you’re holding something which looks like a hammer, that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to pound the living daylights out of the crab. Unless, of course, you happen to enjoy eating crab shells.
The mallet is used to crack the claws, by placing the blade of the knife on the claw and then tapping the back of the knife, such that the shell cracks open and then the meat is removed, often with the help of the same knife.
Just take a look around and do what the locals are doing. No big, dramatic production going on at their table, is there?
Never, ever have I been to a crab house without some Yahoo (in the Jonathan Swift sense of the word) pounding away on the crab as if trying to make pebbles from a boulder.
You are not funny and no one is laughing. Plus, you’re wasting delicious crab.
So, please stop all that pounding and learn how to dig out the guts and tear apart a crustacean and eat it with your bare hands like a civilized person.
PS-Don’t forget to lick your fingers from time to time!