Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Crustaceans

I've been obsessed with taking our son crabbing this year. It must have something to do with my son's passion for fishing these past two years and his catching our fish for dinner has resulted in some of the best dinners we've ever had. Another benefit of him catching our dinner is that he is guaranteed to eat it and with gusto. I am not going to go hunting for wild game, but crabbing or fishing? I am totally up for that.

My friend Emma's brother, Andrew, offered to take us musseling this past week and we jumped at the chance. First of all, the idea of foraging for my own dinner sounded incredibly appealing and secondly, I have always wondered how to get those mollusks off the rocks. Andrew is a pro and certainly knows his way around the bay, so we studied the tide charts and marched out onto Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay for an afternoon of musseling. The weather was a balmy 62 degrees and the tide was so far out that it took us ten minutes to walk out to the shore break.
I watched the younger children on the beach while the adults and the older kids went to get the mussels. Andrew came prepared with his own digital scale (California law says 10 pounds is the max) and the kids went to work pulling those mussels from the rocks.

The adults scrubbed and broke the barnacles in a tide pool and within an hour we each had about 7 pounds of mussels each for dinner. We cooked them for our Christmas Eve feast using the Barefoot Contessa's Mussels Moulinere recipe from her "Barefoot in Paris" cookbook.

My husband put some serious elbow grease into cleaning these mussels to get the barnacles off, but it was worth every minute and scraped knuckle.
These were the most delicious, succulent mussels I've ever had and we ate nearly every single one. I can't wait to go out there again, because it was one of the best beach experiences I have ever had with my child.

December is also known for crab season around here and I have had my eye on the crab prize since this summer, secretly plotting our next big excursion. As a teenage when I vacationed with family in South Carolina, we would go crabbing off a pier in Hilton Head for blue shell crabs. This one particular pier we went to had so many crabs below that it looked like the entire beach was undulating with skittering crabs. We simply tied a raw chicken drumstick to drop basket and they crawled on in - it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I still haven't had an opportunity to go crabbing yet in the Bay Area, but eventually we will get around to it. In the meantime, I cooked nine crabs along with the mussels for Christmas Eve dinner and we ate like kings that day.

On Christmas Day we used the leftover crab (I was shocked we had any crab left!) for crab cakes. We ate far too many of these and they were worth it. Sadly I didn't get any photos of the finished product because we ate them too fast. But they were delicious.

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