Monday, June 6, 2011

Dungeness Crab Appetizer Plate

Do you have any crab lovers at your house?

Or amongst your friends?

If you do, I think you'll have a big hit with this dish at your next party!

The kids were coming over for dinner tonight--I wanted to make them something special.

My family will be happy tonight!

After the crab is cleaned and the shells are cracked to make the meat easy to get to, it's arranged on the platter as if it's still whole--with vegetables, for an appetizer tray.

It makes a fun presentation!

When I went to Costco this morning, the crab looked good, so I picked up a package.

The crab at Costco is whole, so there's a little bit of work to do to prepare this appetizer tray.

The first thing I made was the cocktail sauce.

Start with a 1/3 cup ketchup.

Then add a tablespoon of horseradish along with a teaspoon of sriracha hot sauce.

Then add about a tablespoon of lemon juice.

Mix well, taste, and adjust seasonings.

This is my favorite cocktail sauce.

These guys are already cooked.

Rinse them under cold water and they're ready to eat.

You'll need a pair of kitchen shears to crack the shell.

You can use a nutcracker or a tenderizer mallet, too.

This is the underside of the crab.

Pull the legs off first.

Taking this guy apart prompts me to say a silent prayer in thanks for his life to nourish others.

Leave each leg section whole.

These white things are the gills, take them off.

I learned that in biology.

Junior high, I think.

I could show you how I know these particular crabs are male--if you remember, that would be like what Brock used to do with his horses--but I think I'll skip that this time.

And spare you the details of my daughter helping me clean the crab and asking, "Would that be where Mr. Crab would get a...vasectomy?"

Take the kitchen shears and snip a little cut into each side of the crab's leg, at each section.

That makes it easy to snap the shell to get the meat out.

It's pretty easy to do, even on the big claws.

You can use a nutcracker, but I don't think they work as well.

Just a little snip like this works great.

After you've done all the legs, it's time to do the body.

The shell comes apart like this.

Pull the middle part away from the big shell.

That part is called the carapace.

Pull the gills off.

Then wash the other innards off the carapace.

This is the carapace broken in half.

You can see the sections from each leg section.

Rick Godinez calls these parts "the Titanic pieces".

Because they have a lot of compartments.

Now we call them the Titanic pieces too.

Break the Titanic pieces into smaller pieces.

This stuff--the rest of the innards--is called 'the tamale,' or 'crab butter'.

It's supposed to be considered a delicacy--I've never eaten it-- I made Killer Crab Whole Dungeness Crab Roasted in Garlic Sauce a long time ago--and that recipe calls for crab butter. 

That recipe was good, but I've decided I like this simple preparation of Dungeness crab better.

Whenever I make this, though, my father-in-law always asks if I saved him the inside part.

That's his favorite part.

He cooks it with shoyu, sugar and mirin--and scrambles an egg in there.

I wash the shell out and use it for decoration on the tray.

Arrange the legs like they were on the crab.

Then put the Titanic pieces on top, in the middle.

Put the big shell on top.

Garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon wedges.

Serve with cocktail sauce and/or ranch dressing.

At Costco, there were two crabs to a package.

I garnished the tray with carrot and celery sticks and with grape tomatoes.



Karen's in town for a work convention.

She loves crab!

She is definitely not camera shy.

My father-in-law loves crab, too.

I used to buy them a live Dungeness crab at the Chinese market every now and then when I'd go there, and the crabs were on sale, then drop off the squirmy little bundle at their house, on my way home from the market.

It's not something they would buy for themselves as a treat.

As my mother-in-law was getting ready to cook the crab, the crab pinched her!

She said it pinched her so hard, and for so long, it brought tears to her eyes!

She said, "Itai. Itai! ITAI!"

(Itai means 'it hurts'.)

She makes this exact expression when she tells the story, too.

Then she laughs.

In that Japanese way that's kind of shy--and she covers her mouth.

So, if you buy a live crab, best to cook it with the rubber bands they put over the pinchers--ON!


For a cooked crab:

Thoroughly wash crab. Break off the legs and snip them with kitchen scissors to crack the shell in places to make it easier to get to the meat.

Break the body, the carapace, away from the large top shell. Wash and remove the gills and innards, then break into smaller pieces. Wash the big shell, removing everything remaining.

Arrange on plate in the shape of the whole crab, putting the small pieces under the large shell. Garnish with lemon wedges, parsley and an assortment of fresh vegetables. Serve with cocktail sauce or ranch dressing.

Cocktail Sauce

Combine 1/2 cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon jarred horseradish, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon sriracha hot chili sauce. Mix well, taste, and adjust seasonings.


  1. Beautiful and delicious crab meal! I love it! And I have to say... I like your little spoons! :-) Gorgeous pictures...and we love Costco too (how funny I posted today's recipe with Costco's seafood medley haha).

  2. Oh, Karolyn! You display the crab so beautifully! The vague memories I have of eating crab at home (I was really young when my parents stopped buying it) aren't so pretty! My mother would spread newspaper on the kitchen table and I think on the floor. Everyone (there were four of us) would be armed with a nut pick and shared the two nutcrackers. I don't remember much else from the meal other than it was a mess! Seeing your meal, I just may try serving it one day! But without the newspaper on the table!!!

  3. @Nami @ Just One Cookbook

    Hi Nami! Thank you for the nice comment! It's funny, I agree, I thought the same thing as you when I saw your bouillabaisse recipe today on your blog! :)

  4. @Robbie

    Hi Robbie! I loved the description of eating crab at your house growing up--that could be my house too! :) Thanks for always commenting--I really appreciate them!

  5. Yum crab! Not like the little buggers we have on the east coast!