My daughter turned 34 years old this year and she's a fisher-woman, yes she is. From as far back as I can remember Jen loved fishing and it did not matter whether it was fishing at a lake, stream, pond or the ocean. She simply loves fishing and she also loves catching (and ultimately eating) blue crabs. It first began with her grandpa Don when she was just knee high to a grass hopper. I think he had something to do with her interest in catching crabs. And ask her what's the best way to catch crabs? Well with a line and some stinky chicken and a net to catch the crab once it latches on to the chicken.
Yesterday she ventured with her good friend Chris on his boat to the waterways in Old Saybrook Connecticut and they hauled in a good amount of crab. Lucky for me I got the call that we were going to be the recipient of some of the days catch. In this container were seven live and feisty blue crabs.
We have fond memories of sitting around our table enjoying blue crabs that were cooked, clean and then added to a slow simmering sauce which I dubbed my Seafood Sauce. It's how my mother did it back in the day when Jen's grandfather and his friend went crabbing and used to bring home bushel baskets full of them. At that time they owned a local tavern and lunch restaurant so cooking and cleaning the crabs which took quite a long time just happened to be easier in the commercial type kitchen.
All of us in our family prefer cooking the crabs and cleaning them prior to sitting down at a table to eat them. In most crab boils you don't have that luxury of an already cleaned crab. They add the crabs to the water with lemons and Old Bay and when they are ready you get them steaming hot on a slab of newspaper with a mallet to crack them open.
Because the crab has to cool down to clean them and rinse them under cold running water is the reason my mother developed this sauce. It's a super delicious and very simple sauce to make.
I went on line to see how long I should cook the crabs and I can't believe the amount of time varied from 3-5 minutes up to 20 minutes - sheesh! I let the water come up to a boil and put the crabs in and closed the lid. It took a good 2 minutes for the water to come up to a boil again and I cooked them for 8 more minutes. Knowing that I would be simmering them in the sauce I felt that was a good amount of time. It really was guessing on the time.
I found a great video that explains the difference between the sexes of the crab and how to remove the shell and clean the crab and how to get the meat out of the crabs.
For the Seafood Sauce:
- 1 large green bell pepper – seeds removed and sliced
- 1 medium sweet onion – sliced
- 2 small cans tomato sauce
- 3/4 can of water (use the tomato sauce can for measurement)
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. granulated garlic
- 1 tsp. fresh garlic – finely minced
- 1½ tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- In a deep skillet (that has a lid), and over moderate heat melt the butter and olive oil. I use the combination of butter and olive oil due to the fact that the olive oil has a higher smoking point and to have less “fat” in the dish.
- When the butter and olive oil are melted, add in the sliced onions and peppers and garlic. Allow them to cook down and soften a touch. About 3-4 minutes.
- Add in the tomato sauce, water and all of the dried spices. Stir and pop the lid on. Allow this to cook for about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Taste and adjust for seasonings. If you feel the sauce has come together and is full of flavor, you add in the cooked crabs and simmer for about 20 minutes or longer. You want the crabs to be thoroughly heated and they absorb some of that great flavor from the sauce.
The other part of this is the experience of catching the crabs. While that may not be for everyone, it is tons of fun and inexpensive family time. Get the chicken (ask your stores butcher) for chicken ready to go over the edge - see if they will give it or sell it dirt cheap. The stinkier the chicken the more it would attract the crabs!