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Cooking & Eating Live Blue Crabs

 I visited an Asian market over the weekend. They have live blue crabs — weekends only — for $3.29 a pound. How do I prepare them? Is there enough meat on them to make them worth the effort and the price? What are the best parts to eat?

 All good questions. They are delicious, but challenging to eat and skimpy in the meat department. About 15% of their weight is meat, so youíre really paying $3.29 for 2.5 ounces of meat. If a reasonable serving is 4 to 5 ounces, multiply that by the number of people you will be feeding, and you can quickly decide if it is economically justifiable.

On the other hand, of course itís worth it! Eating should be an adventure once in a while and we feel strongly that sometimes you should be willing to spend as much money for a great home-cooked meal as you casually plunk down in an average restaurant for an average restaurant meal.

And this is the perfect opportunity for a great outdoor cookout, where no one cares how long it takes or how messy you get. The simplest way to cook the crabs is to toss them in a pot of boiling water for 6 minutes or so. You can also steam them, which will take 8 to 10 minutes. You may need to clean them first. If so, plunge them into boiling water for 30 seconds, remove them and clean them under running water, paying particular attention to use a brush on the underside behind the legs.

When theyíre cooked, the fun begins. Bibs or aprons are required, and nutcrackers or small mallets and nut picks are useful. First, twist off the crabís "apron," the small flap on the underside, and discard. Next, with the crab upside down, press down on one side of the top shell and pull up on the center and leg sections with the other hand until they come apart. Remove the gills from each side and discard. Twist off the legs and claws, take the mallet, and have at it. Melted butter, lemon, and/or tartar sauce are perfect accompaniments.

All of the meat is good; the body meat is judged better than claw meat, but so what! Itís $3.29 for 2.5 ounces, for heavenís sake. Enjoy it all. And since youíre not exactly going to be stuffing yourself with crab, make sure to have enough potato salad, watermelon, lemonade, and other treats on hand to round out the meal.

Of course, you can also take a much more civilized route and make a She-Crab Soup, but thatís no bargain and not much less work, either.


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