Yes, the alternate title was a total nod to The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and even that shameful shark-jump, Bachelor Pad. The Shop Tart watches them all. So what? Mr. Shop Tart does, too. There was a promise here a few days ago, a promise to show you how to clean and pick blue crab, with photos. Because it was difficult to set the timer, balance the camera between her knees and try to get the perfect shot, the Shop Tart decided to go video, but we’ll get to that.
On Edisto Island, if you don’t wish to go crabbing yourself, head right to Flowers Seafood Company. Order your lunch from the truck first, because it takes a while (but it’s worth it).
Inside, ask for a dozen large male blue crabs. They will come in a bag, alive.
If you are vegetarian or squeamish about eating animals, this may not be the post for you. No problem: Make yourself a cocktail and go enjoy the view on the porch. We’ll see you in a minute.
The Shop Tart hadn’t done much crab-picking in recent years and her friend Leslie, on a recent trip to Edisto, reminded her of the ins and outs. Leslie’s mom, who by all accounts is totally awesome, talked the ladies through their project over the phone.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program. When you get home, do not let the crabs escape. They will try.
Wrap the bag tight and put them in the freezer, this will stun them a little so they don’t try to escape when you steam them. When you’re ready to cook, get a big huge pot and make a false bottom. The false bottom will keep the crabs from soaking in liquid. A metal colander works. Pour a beer in there — any old beer is fine — and sprinkle some crab boil seasoning. Flowers Seafood sells it in baggies. They don’t make their own, but it’s very similar to Old Bay — it may even be Old Bay — but it’s a lot cheaper.
Put the pot on the stove. Dump the crabs into the pot. Sprinkle more crab seasoning and some salt, then slam the top down, before those crazy guys escape. Almost anyone raised in South Carolina has at least one memory of a crab escaping and scampering across the kitchen floor. Isn’t it funny to watch Grandma scream and chase a crab with a wooden spoon?
Once the beer is boiling, turn down the heat and steam the crabs for 30 minutes or so, until they are orange. Let them cool before you start picking.
While they are cooling, set up your picking station, preferably with a good view and a nice breeze.
You will need a fork, a knife with a pointed end, a crab cracker (or a hammer if you don’t have one), a bucket to discard the shells, a bowl for the picked meat, a roll of paper towels and a disposable flowered place mat. The place mat is optional, but you will want to put something down to save your table and floor.
Now, pick up a crab.
Turn it over and find the skirt. You can tell this is a boy crab, because, well, his skirt is shaped like a piece of male anatomy.
Remove the skirt and the two little antenna-like thingies underneath. This will be easy.
Next, separate the top and the bottom half by sliding your knife in between the halves. Go from the back, because the face is harder to get into. Tip: Hold the crab top-side down so all the gunk can fall into the top half, which you’ll be discarding. (Unless you want to save the top, clean it and use it as a cute container to serve the crab. Love!)
Next, you will remove the entrails and dump them. You see those tentacle-looking things on the left? Remove them. They are gills. Don’t worry about the mustard, it’s part of the crab’s digestive system. Though you may not like the way it looks, it tastes good, so don’t worry about meticulously removing it all. Consider it seasoning.
Discard the top shell and start picking. Crack the remaining crab in half. The Shop Tart likes to leave the legs on for leverage, but you can remove them now if you like. When you start picking the crab, go slow and use your sense of touch. Parts of the shell will break easily and you can check for shell as the crab slides through your fingers. If there’s a bit you just can’t separate from the shell, forget about your job, put it in your mouth and eat that crab. Spit the remaining shell straight into your discard bucket.
Once you are finished cleaning the body of the crab, start on the legs.
The big ones are easiest, of course. Just crack them open with a seafood cracker or a hammer and start picking.
Look at that…
The little legs are a little more difficult, but still worth it. This is where the seafood set comes in handy, like this one. The Shop Tart feels sure you could find similar at Gourmet Shop or Mary & Martha. You see that piece on the opposite end of the forks that looks like a cuticle pusher? It’s perfect for sliding little bits of meat out of the tiny, soft-shell legs.
One dozen crabs yielded four cups of meat. (Actually, there might have been more, but the Shop Tart ate while she picked. And her brother and sister each ate one crab. The Shop Tart didn’t count, but Flowers might have given them a baker’s dozen, 13 or 14 crabs, so these are all estimates.)
And the video? Here’s the video. Definitely a little kinky. For the record, the Shop Tart is not exposed. She’s wearing a Lilly Pulitzer bikini from Pink Sorbet — navy with white daisies — and a Love Quotes cover-up from Vanjean. here’s to hoping this video doesn’t come back to haunt her.
Want crab right this second? Palmetto Seafoods on Gervais near the corner of Harden sells them, and they’re live. They have to be alive when you cook them. Sorry. Want to make crab cakes? Here’s an easy recipe. The Shop Tart lucked out. Her dear friend Leslie picked all of the crabs she and the other ladies didn’t eat and they woke up to crab cakes. Now, that’s a good friend, y’all. (Don’t have Leslie’s recipe, but these were a probably rolled in crushed Utz crab chips before frying. Good call.)
Happy Shopping and don’t forget to tell them you read it on the Shop Tart!