Dungeness crab is a centerpiece in Oregon seafood. Harvesting the crustacean is worth more than $150 million to the state’s economy.

Last month’s story about the “Boat to School” program showed how youngsters are learning firsthand about this valuable crab. But as it turned out, that was only part of the story.

The Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission wants consumers to try recipes that are simple, quick and delicious.

Fisherman Steve Fick loves to share that good news with three recipes that dare to be different:

1. Crab in Black Bean Sauce

  • 2 whole Dungeness crab, pre-cooked
  • 1/2 cup black bean sauce (concentrated paste)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced or crushed ginger
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch; mix in 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3 tbsp. peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup of chopped green onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Makes 6 servings

This Asian-style dish comes with a savory sauce to compliment the Dungeness crab. Sharp, pungent, salty and spicy with a hint of sweet, black bean sauce contributes a flavor to crab like no other. The crab should be steamed first or use store bought, precooked Dungeness crab to cut your preparation time. Black bean sauce is bottled usually in small glass jars as a concentrated paste. The paste can be found in Asian markets and ethnic food sections of your local supermarket. Using a wok is preferred for cooking this dish, but a large cast-iron frying pan also works well.

Preparing the pre-cooked crab:

  • Clean the crab by lifting up its “tail,” the small flap on the abdomen, and continue to pry off the back of the crab completely. With top of the crab facing up, break into two pieces.
  • Remove and discard gills that are attached to both halves of the meaty section of the body. They look like little fibrous feathers and are pale-white/grayish in color and can be easily pulled away with your fingers. Discard main body shell.
  • Detach crab legs by slicing through the meaty section, leaving a piece of body meat attached to each leg. Slightly crush the leg sections and claws with a meat hammer to allow flavors to seep.

Cooking:

  • In wok or frying pan, heat peanut oil or vegetable oil and quickly saute garlic and ginger.
  • As broth comes to boiling, add black bean sauce, gradually not all at once because this paste is salty.
  • Add black pepper to taste.
  • Once taste is to your liking, mix crab in sauce to infuse flavor into legs. Push crab legs upward to sides of wok to create an empty well at bottom of wok. As broth continues to boil, notice a thinker liquid will develop. This brings additional body and flavor to the sauce.
  • Reduce heat to medium high; add corn starch mixture gradually and stir to thicken broth/gravy to your liking. Give final quick mix of crab legs and turn off heat, ready to serve.
  • If using a serving platter, place crab legs with claws pointing out to edge of platter and meaty sections in center. Pour sauce over meaty sections, allow to simmer for 15 minutes and garnish with chopped green onion. Enjoy.

2. Crab With Sole

  • 6 Petrale sole filets
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup firm butter

This showcases a flat fish you may have missed: Petrale sole. Fick called it “the finest of the flat fishes” that are caught off the Oregon Coast. He said, “When you go into the store, this is really the best sole fish you can get.” Petrale is the firmest of all flat fishes and is prized as mild and sweet. For this recipe, we pour a classic Hollandaise sauce on top of the Petrale sole. It is a perfect match with Dungeness crab.

Directions:

  • Submerge and cover each filet in seasoned flour (salt and pepper added to taste), then place them on an oiled cookie sheet
  • Broil the filets for just a few minutes to cook through.
  • In a saucepan, vigorously stir egg yolks and lemon juice with wire whisk. Add 1/4 cup of the butter. Heat over very low heat, stirring constantly with wire whisk, until butter is melted.
  • Add remaining 1/4 cup butter. Continue stirring vigorously until butter is melted and sauce is thickened. (Be sure butter melts slowly so eggs have time to cook and thicken sauce without curdling.) If the sauce curdles (mixture begins to separate), add about 1 tablespoon boiling water and beat vigorously with wire whisk or hand beater until it’s smooth. Spoon it over fish and seafood for a heavenly touch.
  • Serve immediately or store covered in refrigerator. To serve refrigerated sauce, reheat over very low heat and stir in a small amount of water.

Bonus: Fick liberally topped 2 cups of crab meat across the cooked filets and then topped it all with Hollandaise sauce.

3. Pasta and Crab

  • 8 ounces linguine pasta
  • 1 lb. of crab meat
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes
  • 8 ounces chicken broth
  • 6 cups of chopped kale
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Makes 6 servings

Directions:

  • Boil a pot of salted water for the pasta; add 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions; reserve two tablespoons of the water
  • Pick through the crab to remove any shells and set aside
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  • Add the garlic and sauté after 1-1/2 minutes
  • Add the wine and butter and sun dried tomatoes and continue cooking for 2 minutes
  • Add half the crab meat and season with pepper to taste
  • Cook 1 minute to heat the crab through and then remove from heat
  • Combine the linguine with the crab mixture, adding a little of the reserved water if needed to help coat the pasta with the sauce
  • Add the remaining crab meat and then the parsley and serve immediately

Bonus: Fick added 6 cups of chopped kale to the recipe. “I like the kale in this recipe because it’s healthy for you and it’s something different that works well with the crab,” said Fick. After he sautéed half of the crab meat with sun dried tomatoes and olive oil, Fick added 8 ounces of chicken broth to the mixture and allowed it to cook through for 3 minutes before putting in the kale. A lid was placed on the frying pan to cook through the kale (about 3-4 minutes).


 

And with that, the table was set as Fick noted: “These are all relatively easy recipes to prepare in just a few minutes when you get home from work.”

Plates are filled and the diners weighed in. Walt Kastner said, “I like it — it’s simple  not that hard to do. I think I could even do it.

Shannon Dotson called the black bean sauce, “Amazing! That flavor was really strong and it was wonderful.”

Jeff Jordan agreed and said “The saturation of the flavor between the meat and the shell was delicious. I really liked it.

Jean Kastner also thought it was delicious. “I’ve never had it this way before — very good!”

I asked guest diner, Kerry Harsin, which was his favorite. He offered with a chuckle, “My favorite bite was the last one I had!”

Finally, Steve suggested that each of us should try more diverse crab recipes: “This is a year-round product that you can easily find in the grocery or your fish counter. You own this delicious seafood so take advantage of it.”

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

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