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Originally published Friday, May 3, 2013 at 12:02 PM

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Nancy Leson has gone all crabby

Crab fresh from the drink is all it's cracked up to be.

Seattle Times food writer

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Great column about crab. We have what we think is the best crab cake recipe. We will... MORE
Probably fit more crab in the bucket by cleaning, then boiling.... Tastes better, can't... MORE
Any suggestions for best place to buy fresh NW crab? Buehler? MORE

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I MARRIED the bait boy.

My husband, Mac, doesn't like to fish, but he's happy to untangle a line, pinch a barb, bait a hook and eat whatever his son — or his wife — reels in.

Sadly, our haul is often small. That's why they call it fishing, not catching.

A licensed, professional mariner, Mac swears like a sailor. And for most of the nearly 20 years I've known him he's sworn he'd "never, ever!" own a boat. Until the day he pulled his truck into our driveway, trailer in tow. On it was a 14-foot Smokercraft outfitted with a 15-horsepower Honda outboard.

"We got a great deal!" Mac crowed, while our son — who, like our sturdy fishing vessel, is 14-going-on-15 — was grinning like a shark within inches of its prey.

Nate immediately christened the skiff "Small Fry," overriding his mother's suggestion: "Never Say Never."

When it's not taking up prime real estate in our garage, Small Fry is our trusty companion on the Skagit, the Snohomish and the Sound, where she comfortably houses three, an ice chest, a picnic lunch and our fishing gear.

But we all agree the boat is at its best offshore at our favorite vacation spot, Orcas Island, where we're now known as the Family von Trap.

The Dungeness hate us.

Nate and I used to get our thrills tossing crab rings off the Edmonds public fishing pier, where long summer nights meant pulling up the rare Dungie keeper (males, with a hard-shell span of at least 6.25 inches), the occasional Red Rock and a host of pesky starfish attracted by a zip-tied chicken leg.

Since Small Fry came into our lives, though, nothing thrills us more than spending Thanksgiving crabbing on Orcas. Last year, the winter crabbing season magically opened for us and we shared the holiday — and the boat — with friends.

Each day the menfolk braved the elements on Presidents Channel, dropping then retrieving a trio of crab pots anchored with custom-rigged line and family-crested buoys. (You're a pro, bait boy!)

Then they'd come home to Mama, traps brimming with their legal limit.

My canning pot filled with saltwater, I awaited the arrival of the deadliest catch, then I boiled the bounty, cleaned the crab and melted plenty of butter. Three days of this and we'd had our fill: crab served hot, and cold, as cocktails and with cocktails. That's when I went into high gear, cracking (then freezing) the leftovers.

Which tasted great in our Christmas gumbo.

Nancy Leson is The Seattle Times' food writer. Reach her at nleson@seattletimes.com.

Mashiko Scallops with Dungeness Crab

Serves 2

Got extra crab? Try this quick trick, courtesy of chef Hajime Sato, owner of Mashiko, West Seattle's sustainable sushi restaurant.

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

6 large sea scallops

½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon soy sauce

¼ lemon

1/3 pound Dungeness crabmeat

Daikon radish sprouts, for garnish

1. Heat the butter in a medium saute pan, over medium-high heat. When the butter is bubbling, add the scallops and cook without moving them for 1 minute. Turn the scallops and sear the other side. Remove from the pan and place on two warmed plates.

2. Add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon to the same pan. Swirl the liquid over medium heat and lightly scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the crab and mix gently to combine.

3. Turn the crab mixture onto the scallops, dividing evenly. Garnish with daikon radish sprouts and serve immediately.

— from "In the Kitchen with the Pike Place Fish Guys"

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