By Fred Thompson
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Extra info for Crazy for Crab: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Fabulous Crab at Home
Over time, I journeyed to the crab meccas of the East Coast: Faidley's in Baltimore's Lexington Market; the Crab Claw Restaurant in St. Michaels, Maryland; crab feasts in Crab City, aka Annapolis, Maryland; the National Hard Crab Derby & Fair in Crisfield, Maryland, the self-proclaimed Crab Capital of the World; Urbanna, Virginia, home to some of the best soft-shell crabs in the Chesapeake Bay; and the crabbers' enclave on King Street in Hampton, Virginia. I thought I knew crabs. Then 2 years ago, I hunkered down on one of the stools at Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco and was treated to not only divine Dungeness crab Louis but also to an education on West Coast crabs.
The cooking and picking of peekytoe crabs is still a cottage industry carried out by the wives of lobstermen. What started in their kitchens is now done in FDA-approved buildings constructed next to their homes. The talent of pickers varies from house to house, and high-profile chefs have their favorites. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Yountville, California, arguably the finest restaurant in the country, requests that his favorite picker sign each container she picks and packs for him.
Break the crab in half. Gently push down on the back of the shell where the back (rear) flipper legs are located. (See Fig. ) This will loosen the big chunks of meat. Break the legs and claws off the body. (See Fig. ) There will be a small piece of meat on each leg. Eat it and reserve the claws. We'll get to them later. Every place where the legs are connected to the body is a cavity full of meat. Use your fingers or a small knife to get at it. Break the joints around the claws. Using crackers or a mallet, crack the claws.