written by Thor Erickson photography by Tambi Lane
I became enamored with crab as a child. About once a year, my dad would arrive home carrying a bucket overflowing with fresh Dungeness crabs and a baguette tucked under his arm. On these occasions, everyone would stop what they were doing and get busy performing their assigned tasks. Dad steamed the crabs. Mom made a salad and warmed the baguette. My sisters cut lemons, lined the dinner table with newspapers and found the crab crackers. I got to put on the record album. Dad would shout from our tiny bustling kitchen, “Anything by Cal Tjader or … Coltrane!”
“Coltrane it is,” I would shout back. We would spend hours sitting around the table, picking and eating steamed crab from the shell, dipping it in hot butter and talking and laughing. Everyone’s smiling faces glistening with butter and satisfaction. It was at these dinners that I fell in love with crab.
As I grew older, I became obsessed with crab and sought to find the best kind. Alaskan king crab, Chesapeake blue crab, Florida stone crab, Norwegian brown crab, Mexican spider crab. While these varieties of the crustacean are all delicious in their own ways, none of them come close to Dungeness crab. Aside from having the best flesh-to-shell ratio, the crab meat is a perfect balance of meaty, salty and sweet. Dungeness crab is the best. There, I said it.
So, go and get some fresh Dungeness crabs and a crusty loaf of bread, melt some butter, open a bottle of Oregon pinot gris, throw some newspaper on the dinner table and jazz on the turntable. Call up family and friends and enjoy the best things in life. Make sure to have plenty of crab for leftovers to make this Perfect Crab Melt.
The Perfect Crab Melt
• 8 ounces fresh Dungeness crab meat
• 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
• ½ celery stalk, finely diced
• 3 scallions (green onions), sliced thin, divided equally; save some for garnish
• 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
• Zest from 1 lemon
• 2 teaspoons lemon juice
• ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 2 slices of crusty sourdough bread
• 1 large tomato, cut into 4 thin slices
• ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
• ¼ cup grated Muenster cheese
• ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
• One dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Combine the mayonnaise, celery, scallions, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne in a bowl. Gently fold in the crab meat.
- Lightly toast the bread and place on a baking sheet. Spread the crab mixture over the toasted bread. Top each piece with a slice of tomato and mixed grated cheeses.
- Place the baking sheet under the broiler and broil until the cheese melts and gets slightly bubbly (about 2 to 3 minutes). Garnish with sliced scallion.