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One of my favorite seasonal bounties is finally here: Dungeness crab is hitting the docks, and the quality is superb.
I grew up along the Humboldt Bay, and the annual Dungeness season was an exciting time. Not only did we get to enjoy all the great crab, but it also supported a large piece of the community. Having a good crab season meant having a good Christmas for many families.
Our family would get together for a crab boil every year. We would boil about 15 crabs outside in my grandmother’s giant pot. Just a piece of advice for any of you that may try this: cooking crab outside is the way to go. If you cook inside, the smell will linger in your house for days.
We would cover a large table with layers of newspaper, no plates or platters and limited silverware. Alongside the whole crabs, we always had roasted red potatoes, grilled artichokes, hard boiled eggs, corn on the cob, heads of roasted garlic, drawn butter, aioli, lemons and lots of napkins. Everything was spread out on the table for everyone to enjoy. This type of feast is perfect for some cold Nickel & Nickel or Far Niente Chardonnay of your choice and lots of it. We all sat around the table talking, cracking crab and eating with our hands.
There are two types of crab eaters: The Pickers and The Pilers. The Pickers eat the crab as they crack it, a little at a time. The latter focuses on cracking and building a pile of crab in front of them until they cannot resist any longer and dive in. If you’re a Piler, don’t get up from the table with crab in front of you or it will disappear by the time you return!
After the meal, when the table is always in an apocalyptic state and you feel like you need to be hosed off in the front yard, all we had to do is roll up the newspaper and drop it into the bin.
I still carry on this tradition every year, and I always like to invite a friend that has not partaken in such a feast. It takes a moment to embrace the idea, but the end result is always total bliss.
As I sit in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on this blog, the sweet aroma of just-baked cookies (Russian tea cookies, short dough, ginger bread, snicker doodles, chocolate chip, peanut butter crunch and brandied cherry pecan fudgy brownies) lingers in the air. I must say the kitchen smells pretty amazing right now. I think I’ve eaten a pound of cookie dough today.
Enjoy your holidays!