A few weeks ago, while searching for deals for The Sweethome, I noticed that a 60 qt. stainless steel pot was on sale on Amazon. Seeing as my apartment is only 230 square feet, this is possibly the least practical purchase I have ever made. But regrette rien!
For its virgin run, I bought Dungeness crabs from 99 Ranch in San Gabriel at $6/lb. The lady at the counter fished out six snappy guys (and Dungeness from the store are always male) with lots of verve. It’s disconcerting to hear your dinner rustling around in plastic bags en route home. I was also very conscious of the fact that I was toting a tank of flammable propane in the back of my CR-V. I also considered reincarnation and the whereabouts of my father’s soul. Hopefully he’d not made it into one of these crabs. Is that fucked up that I thought about that?
Brought my trusty patio stove over to my friend Raina’s house, cranked the heat on a few inches of water, and waited for the steam to start seeping out. First we steamed artichokes, potatoes, and corn until they were tender. I suppose we could have steamed them with the crabs, but I didn’t want to fuck it up seeing as I didn’t want the crabs’ sacrifice to be for naught.
I dumped the veg and turned to the crabs. Before everything else, I thanked them for the lives they were about to give. I released the crabs from their doubled-up plastic bags and dumped them into a stainless steel tub I had. Using some too-delicate tongs with scalloped nylon grippers, I tried to lift each crab’s body and lower it into the steamer basket, right side up. At one point, my friend Lisa’s tiny, hoodie-wearing black and white chihuahua ran out to observe the crabs as they snapped about and fell from my tongs’ grips. Fearing for her life, as the crabs were easily twice her weight, I yelled to everyone inside:
ME: Somebody get the dog!
My friend Dan came out to put the dog away, then observed the sacrificial pot, concerned.
ME: They should die pretty quickly in there.
DAN: Doesn’t look like it.
Once each guy was finally in, I shut the lid on the pot, waited for the water to come back to a boil, and set the timer for 12 minutes. After they were done, the freshly ruddy crustaceans were dunked into ice baths, cleaned with all guts and fat scraped from the shell for crab fried rice, and hacked into quarters.
(Photo below by Dan)
KOZY: We should say itadakimasu before this.
And we did, with great gratitude. And, holy shit, they were the best crabs I’ve ever had—sweet, tender, meaty, and not at all waterlogged. We dipped them in garlic butter and ponzu and squeezed lemon from Raina’s tree over them. Once we had eaten our fill, we picked the remaining meat from the shells and Kozy made crab fried rice with the white fat scraped from the shells—easily the best crab fried rice I’d ever had. I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day. That next night, we also got back together to make crab artichoke dip, butternut squash crab bisque, and the meatiest, thickest crab cakes we’d ever had. Raina even made stock with the crab shells, which now sits in her freezer, waiting for risotto night some time in the future. Six crabs fed five people three full meals, meals we’ve all been talking about for three weeks.
The occasion now feels momentous for me, one worth chronicling. I feel like I figured something out about how to enjoy life in L.A.—backyards in December, the freshest food in an unpretentious setting, gratitude for everything that I have, including this too short life which can be taken in a steamer basket, in a fender bender with a tank of propane, by globules of cholesterol coursing through my veins.
I’m standing over a fire again and it feels fucking fantastic.