Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Gettin’ crabby

Mr. Lomuscio shares his quest, and his recipe, to make crab cakes with local blue claws.

You might say that I became somewhat crabby last week. 

Those who know me would say that it’s nothing new. But what I am talking about is going after crabs -— blue claw crabs.

It started when I was cleaning out my freezer and found two half chickens that had been in there for some time. I was not going to eat them. So instead of throwing them out with the trash, I decided to use them as bait in my crab trap. I have one of those traps with four entrances that are tapered so the blue claws can go in but can’t manage to figure a way to get out. 

There’s a grate in the middle with a lockable opening on top. That’s where one shoves in the bait — the gamier the better — to attract the crabs. I attach a rope to the trap and a buoy to the rope and row the trap a good distance from the shore so it’s not exposed at low tide.

I take my dinghy and row out to what I think is a good spot to drop the trap. I try to do this at high tide so I do not have to drag the dinghy very far. I keep my dinghy at a town landing a good way up from the high water mark and I have one of the required stickers for leaving a craft on the beach.

This is all very good exercise and very healthy, breathing in all that sea air. But it can get very tiring.

So after depositing my trap on a Monday in the morning at high tide, I returned the next day an hour later. I followed the same drill. There is a sense of excitement and anticipation as I lift up the trap. I had one huge blue claw and a blowfish. At first I thought the blowfish was a sea robin until it swelled up. The chicken was pecked at but there was still plenty left. I put the blowfish and crab in a pail and dropped the trap back into the water. 

Then I rowed back to shore, pulled up the boat and tied it, and then went home with my “catch.”

I have eaten blowfish at restaurants — the tails are tasty and called “chicken of the sea.” As I prepared the fish I noticed how hard the skin was to cut. Then it dawned on me that it was necessary because it had to be strong enough to blow up and not break. They are delicious lightly seasoned and sautéed in butter or oil.

I could not do much with one crab so I simply steamed it and froze it. The next day I found two large crabs in the trap along with a flounder. The flounder was undersized so I let it escape. I took the two crabs home and steamed and froze them. My goal is to get a dozen crabs to make crab cakes. It has been my experience that three large blue claws will yield enough meat for one crab cake. I’ll be able to make four cakes. 

I am still getting good exercise and breathing fresh air, but I think that I am going to switch to dropping the trap off a dock. I’ll still get the fresh air but won’t ache as much.

Blue claws create a challenge to those trying to get the most crab meat. You have to be very careful to use the correct instruments — I like a nut cracker and a nut picker. I pile the meat and deposit it in a mixing bowl. I add an egg, mayonnaise, some chopped garlic and scallions, a drop of mustard and fresh parsley. I mix all those together and add some unflavored bread crumbs to give it some body.

After that I mold them into cakes and fry them in vegetable oil. I sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning and when they are ready, serve with a lemon slice. Very good and worth the wait. I have used this recipe with canned crab meat but it is not the same as using the fresh stuff (even though it’s been frozen).