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Confessions of a Chef’s Wife: Part V: .Shellfish -- I’m Scared!! Let’s Dive In! PART 1

By this point, you all know that Rob and I previously ran our family’s trucking company.  I know…. seems like a strange transition.  Just go with it for the point of this Way Back Story.  My mom was a farm cook….lots of t-bones and pork chops...oh yeah and casseroles...there were a lot of mouths to feed.  Every Friday night, we would go to Harvey’s Dime Store for Perch.  But we had to be home in time to watch Dallas. My Dad really wanted to be JR.  Or perhaps Bobby Ewing….depending on the kind of week he had.  Either would have worked.  Except for the getting shot part.  

On an adult night out, he and mom would go to the Orange Bowl or Teibels for fish.  And if it was the three of us we might go to Red Lobster.  Even though I was a little scrapper, I was allowed to order crab legs at Red Lobster.  And man, I ate them up!  It was my favorite and to this day remains my favorite.  

Then one magical winter, THE CASE appeared in our freezer.  We had an entire case of Alaskan King Crab Legs for the eating at whim.  Dad hauled some frozen goods for a seafood company and they gave him a case for us at home.  That was the most magical winter ever.  

 

So that’s a lot of backstories to get to this…..when we ate out….we always ate fish or seafood because it wasn’t something we had at home very often.  Why?  Because you couldn’t get it here in Northwest Indiana.  And if you did, let’s face it, it was sub-par.  

 

Flash-forward….now we have a fish market! Voila! McGowan & Sons.  We can have fresh fish and quality shellfish anytime we like.  But lots of Valparaisians are scared to cook seafood because why… because we never had it and we didn’t grow up with it! So let’s dive in on the ins and outs of seafood!

 

Let’s start with the basics….what’s the difference between Fish and Seafood. Fish means a cold-blooded vertebrate animal that lives in water, moving with the help of fins and breathing with gills, whereas seafood means fish, shellfish, seaweed, and other edible aquatic life.  For this mini-blog series, we will concentrate on shellfish preparation.  

 

Alaskan King Crab Legs….the daddy of all seafood….did you know they are already cooked?  All you have to do is defrost them and eat? I sure did not know that until THE CASE appeared that one magical winter!  And then my life changed….I am certain that THE CASE must have pre-destined me to meet my favorite FishMonger, McGowan.  

 

Ok...back to the King Crab…If you want to have them warm, all you have to do is to bring them up to temperature.  It’s true. No matter where you are in the world unless you are on a Crab Boat in Alaska, those puppies are going to come in frozen and already cooked.  I know it seems weird for a premium seafood item to come in frozen, but King Crab is so perishable that the crab men and women catch it and take it to a cooking boat or dock facility right after the catch and cook and freeze it there. Regardless….this is the EASIEST and most DECADENT meal you can serve!  

 

(By the way, we provide proper defrosting and warming instructions are written out for you in the store but in case you’re wondering how exactly to go about this….well here it is!)

 

If you are preparing your King Crab same day, you can either 1) put them in the fridge in a colander with a drip pan and let them thaw slowly if you have enough time, or if it’s close to dinner then you can 2) put them in a colander under COOL running water in the sink until the very thickest part is thawed (this is called force-thawing).  You will know they are properly thawed when they are pliable.  Keep moving them around so that all parts get thawed thoroughly.  The colander for both methods is key as you do not want them to sit in standing water!

 

If you are not eating them the same day, then let us know and we will wrap them so they can go right back in the freezer until you are ready for your fancy pants dinner! Or lunch...or breakfast...or brunch….or midnight extravaganza.  Crab Legs...they’re not just for dinner anymore.  Because really this is so easy and they are so delish, you can pull them out for any time of day and any meal and make a big splash (see what I did there?). 

 

Now….if you are serving them chilled, you can move right to service from thawing.  Or if it is not the time for service, then put them back in the fridge until the unveiling.  Do not thaw them until you plan to serve them though, please. They are extremely perishable!  If you would like to eat them hot, then plunge them into a big pot of boiling water or into a perforated pan with boiling water underneath for steaming.  

 

Now for cracking….we prefer cutting down the leg or claw using a good pair of kitchen shears. PRO-TIP those claw crackers are just for show.  Did you notice….we don’t have them for sale in the store….totally unnecessary and kind of a joke.  Kitchen shears are way more effective and, quite frankly, much more user-friendly for your guests.  We would recommend pre-cutting them in the kitchen and then serving them in the pre-cut shells. I learned this from Old Man McGowan. I also learned that he spoils me by pre-cutting them before service.  Sooooooo easy to devour! I mean savor each and every bite!!  Also, please note inside the shells the meat is wrapped around a thin piece of cartilage that resembles plastic.  You do not want to eat this. Just pull your meat off of the cartilage and enjoy!

 

Pile those guys up on a platter with lemon wedges and let your guests go crazy!  It’s ideal if you serve with clarified butter -- which we do have available at the store.  

 

Now as a bit of an afterthought…..the trend is to grill them.  Go for it!  It definitely adds a smokey flavor.  Just be careful not to overdo it.  Remember they are already cooked.  You definitely don’t want to dry them out. No more than 3 or 4 minutes on the grill.

 

It’s just that simple!!!  The most decadent meal you didn’t have to cook!  Now that’s the best showstopper in all eternity!

 

And what about Snow Crab Clusters, you ask?  What’s the difference?  

 

LET’S TALK SIZE FIRST!!!

 

Size is the most obvious difference between the two crab types, with King Crabs being the larger specimen. The biggest among them can reach 20 pounds and measure five feet across.  We carry the Alaskan King Colossal species so most legs weigh between ¾ to 1 ¼ pound each.  King Crab has a thicker, spiky, tough-to-crack shell. Snow crabs have thinner shells.  Our Snow Crab Clusters tend to range between ½ pound and ¾ pound each. 

 

WHERE DO THEY LIVE?

 

Snow crabs reside in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans, preferring the deep, cold water conditions of these northern seas. Their harvesting season starts in late fall and extends as long as early summer. The Alaskan King Crab, on the other hand, has a limited habitat and harvesting season. The large crustaceans reside in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. King Crab fishermen harvest them for just a few weeks in the winter.

 

AND WHAT ABOUT TASTE?

 

Snow crab is named for its meat, which turns from red to snowy white when cooked and boasts a sweet, subtly briny flavor. The texture is firm and tends to be more fibrous (easily shredding into pieces) than king crab. Snow crab leg shells are breakable enough for simply cracking open with your hands.  Snow crab is excellent for a fun and social get-together...get dirty and get to it!!! They are great for a Boil or a fancy addition to a seafood stew or Paella.  

 

Alaskan King Crab’s flavor reputation precedes it. The leg meat is known for its rich, sweet flavor and delicately tender texture reminiscent of lobster meat. 

 

AND WHAT ABOUT PRICE???

 

King Crab has a short harvesting season, limited availability, and a lobster-like flavor—yep, they’re the more expensive of the two. Snow crab legs are typically less expensive than king crab legs. 

 

OK, SO HOW DO I COOK SNOW CRAB??

 

Snow Crab Clusters are also pre-cooked and flash frozen so follow the same instructions for defrosting and boiling/steaming as above. 

 

So I hope that answers all of your burning Crab questions.  

 

We will cover all seafood preparation in the next few blogs….so stay tuned...and Let’s Dive In!!

Do you have any questions about food prep that you’d like me to cover in future blogs? Leave a comment! Also, if you liked these helpful tips, please like and share this blog. Each like, comment and share are very much appreciated! Check back in in a few weeks for my next blog….Seafood -- I’m Scared!! Let’s Dive In! PART 2 #mcgowanandsons #foodnetwork