Oregon coast’s gift of crab ready for the holidays

It’s almost as anxiously anticipated in Oregon’s winter as snowfall on the Cascades — Dungeness crabbing’s return to the coast.

The commercial season officially opened Thursday after a few weeks’ delay to let the crabs pack on a few more pounds. That’s good news for everyone who celebrates their holidays with a crab feed.

My family already got its fix the weekend before Thanksgiving. Recreational crabbing is open in bays year-round, and we enjoyed a red-letter day. While sun was scanty, the region was experiencing a daylong lull between winter storms, and there was hardly a whisper of wind to mar the surface Coos Bay — almost as calm as glass.

Although some crustaceans were still a bit soft in the legs, we caught plenty with the help of friends — crabbing newbies — for the classic crab-crack with plenty left over for our a favorite family recipe: Creamy Crab and Egg Bake, mentioned in a previous post.

As usual, my dad cooked the crabs in salted water over a portable propane burner in our driveway. The method not only keeps the stench and mess outside, but adds a festive air to the year’s first crab boil.

Even if you don’t catch your own, it’s well worth it to buy live crabs and cook them yourself. Copious tips for purchasing, cooking, cleaning and picking crabs can be found at the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission website.

Our young friends eagerly took to the unfamiliar techniques for excising all the meat from the shells. Too bad our fingers were too messy to shoot some video footage of the fun.

If your family cooks up some special recipes or makes its memories around the dinner table, we’d love to get in on the action. Post the video to our Cooking on Camera page and enter the recipe in our Recipe Box, and you’d be eligible to win a gift certificate to The Kitchen Company in Grants Pass.

Strangely enough, an East Coast lover of that region’s blue crabs responded to our video query. While we didn’t find it particularly useful to Rogue Valley readers and it wasn’t really relevant to our contest, this short film does furnish some ideas for producing your own online cooking show.

If you lack recipes for crab, here’s a new one from The Associated Press, billed as ideal for holiday entertaining. It borrows the flavors of creamy crab dip and adds some veggies and starch to turn it into a meal. If your crab is already picked, Creamy Crab and Rice Casserole takes just 25 minutes to assemble and 20 minutes to bake. 

AP photo

Creamy Crab and Rice Casserole

1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3⁄4 teaspoon salt, divided

1⁄2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

3 cups cooked long-grain white rice

1 pound Neufchatel cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup mayonnaise

1⁄2 cup milk

2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning

2 pounds lump crab meat

1⁄4 cup chopped, fresh chives or scallions

3 tablespoons butter

1 1⁄2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1⁄2 teaspoon paprika

Heat oven to 400 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse together the red pepper, celery and red onion until finely chopped.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add chopped vegetables, the garlic, black pepper and 1⁄2 teaspoon of the salt. Saute until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the corn and rice, then spoon into bottom of prepared baking pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, milk and Old Bay Seasoning. Gently stir in the crab and chives. Spoon over rice mixture.

Return skillet to burner over medium heat. Add the butter and melt, then remove skillet from heat. Add the panko, paprika and remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, then stir until well-mixed. Sprinkle evenly over top of crab mixture. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 16 servings.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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