Jason Mead, head chef at The Galley in Topsham, reveals how to prep a spring seafood feast using seasonal Devon crab
Sweet and succulent Devon crab is one of the finest foods in the world, featuring on menus across the globe when it comes into season in spring.
At The Galley we’re lucky to have this sensational shellfish right on our doorstep, but the clawsome crustacean is also one of my favourite ingredients to use at home when I’m cooking for a crowd.
Dressed to impress
If you’re planning to serve local crab, think about picking up dressed brown crabs from your fishmonger. For an easy-peasy spring showstopper, serve them with warm- from-the-oven baguettes, seasonal salad, grilled new season asparagus and a chilled bottle of Muscadet. This is all best enjoyed alfresco, of course.
The fear factor
Don’t be put off cooking crab at home for fear of not knowing which parts are edible. Descriptions like ‘dead man’s fingers’ may suggest certain death if you get it wrong but, once the crab is opened up, those ‘dead man’s fingers’ (the gills) are easy to identify: they look like spongy, feathery fronds.
Taking the plunge
If you’re dealing with live crab, freeze it first so it becomes drowsy then prepare a large pot of super-salty boiling water. Don’t bother wasting good produce by adding extra seasoning like herbs or garlic as they won’t penetrate the shell.
When you plunge the crab into the water there’ll be a high-pitched squealing sound – this isn’t a cry for help, just the air escaping from under the shell.
Cooking times will vary according to size: a 2kg crab will take around 15 minutes to cook – you’ll know when it’s done when the meat starts pulling away from the shell.
Planning to use the brown meat too? Simply blend it in a food processor before passing through a sieve to remove any leftover pieces of shell.
Asparagus and crab is a classic combination and I like to pair the two in a simple way by making asparagus soup topped with lightly dressed white crab meat. Simply bind the meat with crème fraîche, salt, white pepper and a little horseradish sauce, then spoon it into the centre of a bowl and pour chilled asparagus soup around it. Finish with a drizzle of truffle oil and an asparagus soldier for dipping.