For seafood lovers with a taste for crabs, there’s nothing better than tearing into a crustacean platter at your favorite local dive restaurant. Unless, you actually can pull them from the sea and prepare them yourself. On a recent trip to Louisiana, I did just that.
We retrieved my uncle’s crab traps located on Lake Pontchartrain’s floor at approximately 12 feet below the surface. They were placed in a plastic container with drainage holes, and a large wet brown burlap sack covered our fresh catch to keep them cool for the boat ride back to camp.
The crabs were then soaked in a cooler with iced water. Apparently, this keeps the claws from falling when cooked. I had never heard of this technique, but my uncle Guaranteed this method. A custom-made pot (a keg cut in half) was the perfect size for boiling a couple dozen of crabs. Zatarains crab boil seasoning and a few other secret spices were added to the half-filled pot of water. Garlic cloves, onions and potatoes are then added after the water comes to a boil.
Maybe it was the heat from the boil, the 95 degree temperature and gentle river breeze or cajun spices saturating the camp, but I was parched. While I am a wine enthusiast, sometimes an ice-cold beer fits the occasion. Being a guest, I gratefully accepted whatever was offered. No Sauvignon Blanc, Sparkling, Chardonnay or Riesling was to be found on this evening. However, a hand-numbing Natural Light or two went down just fine.
After the potatoes were 90% cooked, the crabs were added. When the water came back to a boil, the crabs were cooked for approximately 5 minutes. Then the fire was turned off, and they soaked for 30 minutes to absorb the spices. To prevent the heated pot from overcooking crabs during the soak, cold water was sprayed on the pot and in the boil to lower the temperature. You can always add ice to the boil for the same effect. Just like a winemaker blending, a few samples were taken during the soak to ensure the proper amount of seasonings were being absorbed.
This took about three samples and several cold ones, but we finally agreed it was time to plate’em. Cracked-open, freshly boiled crabs with some cold suds. What could be better?