Sam Sifton's latest "The Cheat" column discusses steaming some blue crabs (as well as some uses for the crustacean) as a nice thing to do this summer... something to which I can agree fully... but while it is nicely written (as always), and the recipe seems fine enough in most respects... I have visions of Manhattanites standing on chairs screaming as irate crabs chase their pets around the apartment. Now, I'm no expert on steaming crabs... I left Maryland long before I had any desire to be involved in the kitchen, and even now, when I go to the Eastern shore to visit my Dad, he's most definitely in charge of the steamer pot... but I have at least seen a lot of crab steaming in my day, and heard enough apocryphal stories over the years, that it seems to me there was some important advice left out. It's advice that's similar for steaming lobsters... and maybe nobody without that kind of experience would try to steam crabs on their own the first time... but just in case:
- You only want to cook live crabs.
- If you try to put a live room temperature crab in a pot full of boiling hot steam... now, this may surprise you... it's not going to want to go in there. Emphatically.
- So one option is a pair of gloves and tongs and just gladiator them all in (grab them from behind so they can't pinch you). Pretty exciting stuff, but presumably not for everybody.
- I would suggest as an alternative: chilling them down a bit in the fridge, or directly in an ice bath, for a bit. This will make them extremely lethargic.
Good luck to anyone who it going to try it!