If you’re not squeamish you can buy fresh, live crab and cook it yourself. I’m afraid I am squeamish and I could no more drop a live crab into boiling water than I could stab it through the head. I’m perfectly happy to leave the boiling to the experts and to find a reliable fishmonger to choose me a good-cooked crab.
A good crab full of meat should feel heavy for its size. I bought one not long ago that weighed just over 1 lb (450 g) and it yielded almost 7 oz (200 g) of meat. From a large 2 lb (900 g) crab you should get about 12 oz (350 g) of meat. Together with some home-made mayonnaise and a salad, 7-8 oz (200-225 g) of crabmeat is plenty for two people as a main course or can stretch between four for a starter.How to dress crab.
The first thing you do is choose and buy your cooked crab . The fishmonger will pull it slightly open so that you can see it’s full of meat and not empty. Back in your kitchen you’ll need a chopping board, two bowls (one for the white meat and one for the dark meat), a small sharp knife, a teaspoon, a metal skewer (preferably flat), and either a small hammer or a pair of nutcrackers.
Put the crab on its back on the chopping board, so that the claws and softer body shell face upwards, then simply twist off the legs and claws – they’ll come away very easily – and put them on one side.
Now put your thumbs against the hard back shell close to the crab’s tail, and push and prise the body section out and away from the hard back shell. From the body section you now remove and discard the small greyish-white stomach sac, just behind the mouth and the long white pointed ‘dead man’s fingers’. These can be easily distinguished and it is a quick and easy job to remove them.
The body shell (and in particular the parts where the legs and claws joined the body) is a mass of tiny crevices, all harbouring delicious meat. Scrape and pick the meat out, dividing it between the bowls according to the colour of the meat. Remove the meat from the hard back shell in the same way.
Crack the claws and legs with your hammer or nutcracker then, with a skewer, poke out all the white meat into the appropriate bowl.
If you want to serve the crab in the hard back shell, break off the jagged, overlapping rim from all round the edge of the shell, then wash and dry it well, and smear it inside with oil. Then season the white meat with salt, freshly milled pepper, cayenne and lemon juice (chopping or shredding the meat a little). Now season the brown meat in the same way. Place it down the centre of the shell, and place the white meat on either side. Finally decorate the crab with finely chopped parsley and serve with a fresh crisp salad and some home-made mayonnaise.
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