Clawfully Good Crabs

Every summer, my husband likes to visit his brother in Boca Raton, Florida. Prices are lower then, he says, crowds are thinner, and, besides, it’s just as hot and sticky here. True, but I still always push for fall. Not because of the weather—because of the crabs. October 15 starts legal Florida stone crab season, and I want in. In Boca, we can get them just a few blocks down, fresh off the boat at Old Dixie Seafood. The claws, that is, not the crabs. They’re the ultimate sustainable species: once their large “crusher” claws have been removed, the crustaceans are returned to the water to regenerate them. That’s a trait that’s nice for us but even nicer for the crabs, a great convenience when they’re faced with a predatory octopus whose hankering for the claws rivals my own.

By mid-October, the crabs have finished spawning and have grown to maximum size, a four- to six-inch carapace width. The crusher claw meat is swollen sweet from the crabs’ clam, scallop, and conch diet, which is indulged in wild, open water, not aquafarms. Once the crabs are caught (in legally mandated traps), their claws harvested and brought to shore, the indulgence is ours.

Thanks to overnight delivery, what were crushing mollusks yesterday can be dinner today. And Chef William Rosenberg is a flagrant opportunist. His stone crab platter at Port Chester’s f.i.s.h. (102 Fox Island Rd 914-939-4227) is a minimalist orgy of claws and whole-grain mustard dipping sauce. That’s it, and according to him, that’s all it should be—unless you go the classic drawn-butter-and-lemon route. “The less you mess with the claws, the better they are,” Rosenberg states. “They’re super-sweet, simple to prepare, and easy to eat.” The crabs’ sustainability factor is easy, too. “f.i.s.h. is all about being ecologically sound,” he says, “and the crabs fit right in with that.”

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Quick, simple, sustainable: a busy home cook’s or party host’s trifecta. The claws always are sold pre-cooked, whether from fish markets or overnight delivery (try, priced about $14 per pound for medium claws, $20 for large), so all they need is a quick boil and you’re good to go. Expensive, yes, but it still beats plane fare to Boca.

Stone Crab Claws with Dipping Sauces
Courtesy of Chef William Rosenberg, f.i.s.h.
(Serves 4, as appetizer)

Note: Sauces must be prepared ahead

For claws:
4 lb medium stone crab claws (8 lb for
4 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
4 Tbsp kosher salt
Bring 2 gallons of water to a boil. Add salt and Old Bay Seasoning. Bring back to a boil and add claws. Once water returns to a boil, cook 3 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare large bowl of ice water. Remove claws and place into ice water to cool. Drain, crack claws at thick bottoms with nutcracker or with sharp blow from side of heavy knife, or refrigerate until needed.

For mustard sauce:
1 cup prepared mayonnaise
1 cup whole-grain mustard
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 lemons, juiced
Salt and fresh-ground pepper, to taste
In large bowl, whisk first four ingredients until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight.

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For wasabi-ponzu sauce:
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
3-inch piece fresh ginger (or to taste), peeled and finely minced
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp prepared wasabi paste, or
to taste
2 lemons, juiced
2 limes, juiced
In large bowl, whisk all ingredients until well combined. Refrigerate at least 3 hours, or overnight. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

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