Dungeness crabs thrive on the West coast. They live in Pacific Ocean waters that run all the way from San Luis Obispo, Calif., to as far north as Juneau.
In Oregon, Dungeness crab season typically opens on Dec. 1, but this year crabs up and down the coast were too small to catch until the end of December, delaying the opening of the season for weeks.
The last time the season was delayed this long was in 2005-2006. The bright side is now that the crab has hit the market, it should be well worth the wait.
"These [crabs] are going to be super high quality," said Hugh Link, interim director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. "The longer they sit in the water, the better they get sometimes. These will be the best quality you can get."
And depending on where you shop, you're likely to find some pretty reasonable prices.
The best deals will be on whole-body crabs that have been cooked and are waiting on ice for you to pick up at your local grocery store.
Ask the fishmonger to clean your crabs for you removing the back shell, lungs and other nasty bits, or you can try your hand at home.
After you carefully remove the meat from the shells you can expect to yield about 8 ounces of meat from a 2-pound whole crab—if you don't end up eating it all before you use it in the recipe!
If you're feeling flush, at a much higher price per pound, you can buy crabmeat already shelled for you.
Make sure it is Dungeness crab and not another breed of crab. Also be sure to buy it fresh in the cold case, not canned. It should say Dungeness crab right on the package.
Tender and sweet, this prized delicacy is relatively local and well worth the price. Need an idea for how to cook it?
This savory crab bread pudding makes an outstanding first course for dinner, or the perfect lunch entrée.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium leek, white and light green parts, rinsed and finely chopped, about ½ cup
½ cup asparagus cut into ½ inch dice
½ cup marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
¼ cup dry sherry
6 oz Dungeness crab meat
½ loaf Pugliese or other rustic Italian bread torn into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped (1/2 teaspoon dried)
½ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
2 cups half and half
1 cup grated Tillamook Cheddar cheese
1. Melt butter in a medium-sized skillet and add leeks. Saute until soft, about a minute or so.
2. Add artichokes and asparagus. Saute for another minute or so.
3. Add sherry and reduce by half.
4. Set mixture aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a smaller bowl, mix half and half, eggs and yolks, mayo, Dijon mustard, Old Bay, salt and tarragon.
5. Fold in crab.
6. Place bread in large bowl and add egg/crab mixture.
7. Add cooled vegetables and cheese and mix gently.
8. Allow bread to soak up custard for about half an hour.
9. Generously butter a six-cup "Texas" size muffin tin, or six small ramekins.
10. Add mixture to cups until almost full, then place muffin tin or ramekins in a roasting pan with hot water reaching about halfway up the sides of the cups.
11. Cover with foil and bake in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes. Uncover puddings and bake another 15 minutes or until custard is just set.
Do not overbake!
Serve warm or at room temperature.