|Delicious crabs, but oh it takes some work!|
There are just two things I miss, and thoroughly rep, from my childhood in Maryland: gogo music and blue crabs. Gogo music is DC’s special blend of funk, soul, hip-hop, r&b, and reggae all with a bounce beat on congo drums and cowbells. Blue crabs are are juicy hard-shell wonders made sweet and tender by Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay waters. Enjoyed from Virginia to Baltimore, during the warm months you can buy blue crabs from roadside trucks, from select seafood shops, and from the wharf. They’ll steam them on-site or sell you a crate of live blue bodies to take home and steam with a bit of beer and lots of Old Bay seasoning. Gogo music is an acquired taste and the skills to crack open and really enjoy blue crabs take a bit of work to develop. Here’s how to get in there, savor all the meat, and eat crabs like you’re from Maryland.
Prepare for the mess. Spread plastic bags on the table then line with newspaper to catch all of the juices. If you even try to use a knife and fork, you will be made fun of for years to come.
Go after the front claws by carefully grabbing near the shoulder joint, twisting, and pulling. Some of the body meat should come out. Enjoy your first reward of juicy lump meat and be sure to catch and drink up the juices that follow behind. If you like it spicy, dip the meat in melted butter then Old Bay seasoning.
Detach the upper arm (merus) from the forearm (propodus) by twisting and pulling at the elbow (carpus). If done properly, the upper arm meat should slide out in one softly connected, purpled piece. If there is still meat inside, use your molars, a nut cracker, or a wooden mallet to crack the upper arm enough to break in with your fingers and peel back the shell to reveal the meat.
The best way to get the meat out of the hard front claw is to give it one strong bite near the elbow then pry open the claw and gently slip the muscle through the opening that connected the movable finger (dactyl). If that doesn’t work, hack away.
Once you’ve enjoyed both claws, it’s time for the body. The sex of crabs can be determined by the shape on their white undersides. Female crabs have a rounded “Capital Dome” shape where males have a phallic “Washington Monument” shape. Pry up that handle, flip it behind the crab, and keep pulling until you’ve removed the red top shell. All of the green/yellow/brown gunk should come along with it – you shouldn’t eat that; who knows what’s in a scavenger’s belly.
Grab the crab on the sides, wrap each hand around each set of legs, and fold down the middle to crack the body in half. Scrape away the gills (not edible). Starting with the smallest front leg, twist and pull to detach and remove the meat. Enjoy the meat from the top where it was connected to the body, then crack and peel back the leg’s shell to drink up the juices and enjoy the purpled muscles.
Work your way from the smallest leg to the largest swimming leg. Keep looking in the chest of the crab for bits of meat trapped between the translucent white inner shell. Devour the left and right sides with no meat left behind.