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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Adventures of Crab Santa

Last week insider sources tipped me off to a cracking deal on fresh crab. So I promptly appeared on Wharf Two Friday afternoon to pick up 11 from a lady fisherman named DeLay.

Jane DeLay ain't your average crabber. A dancer and former executive director of the Forest Theater Guild, she normally spends her time studying to be a nurse at MPC, working at the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Foundation and serving Greek grub at Episilon in Monterey. But that doesn't mean she wouldn't give it all up, as she did in taking a month off.

"I'd fish full-time," she says, "but with all the shortened seasons, that's not the reality."

She grabs her crabs in Half Moon Bay—the nearby San Fran bay nursery grounds and sandy bottoms tend to yield the biggest and most mature crabs early in the season, she says—aboard her captain friend Mike Ricketts' (no relation to Doc) Sea Hauk.

She calls herself the crew of the operation; Nellie here is security detail when they get back to shore.

They throw traps with favorite crab snacks like mackerel or squid or sardines, pull them up snapping with crab, and steam back here to the commercial wharf, where Royal Seafood’s Gino Pennizi kindly lets her use a tank and a workspace to slang her crustaceans.

Here's a peek at the tank and a good old fashioned Crab Battle in a Bucket over at Royal, still my favorite place for seafood in town:

Market price at the moment was $6 per big fatty—DeLay says they are averaging between 1.9 pounds and 2.25—and an extra buck for her to cook them if that's too complicated for her customers.

Her recipe is nice, easy and tasty in that way that lets the crab speak for its own fresh self: Once the water in your crabpot is boiling, throw the suckers in with lemon juice and salt, bring it back to a boil and then cook them for 12 minute even.

She bagged my babies and I took to delivering to fridges around the Peninsula.

Crab Santa struck twice.

Later we spread newspaper everywhere as four friends and I had a supreme messy feast of chilled crustacean in hot garlic butter, garlic bread, salad, Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay.

DeLay says she'll be back on the high seas once the weather eases off the 10-foot-swell stress around Friday. Reach her at 383-9681 for availability.

Fresh and sweet, simple and sublime. 'Tis the (crab) season.