Dungeness crab season is upon us, and chefs are celebrating the occasion by using it, as well as other crab varieties, to stretch their creativity to highlight the shellfish’s sweet-and-salty qualities.
Bahr Rapaport, chef and co-owner of the recently opened Seabird in New York City, is a huge fan of Dungeness crab. He not only features it on his menu several ways, but he also plans to add even more of it in the coming months.
“One of my favorite times in the year is when Dungeness crab season falls upon us and we have crab feasts,” Rapaport said. “It's like medieval seafood eating — all animalistic; spiced and buttered claws being torn apart with bare hands. Nothing is more satisfying.”
While Rapaport plans to make crab feasts a regular occurrence at the “bistro-meets-beach club” seafood spot in the coming months, until then he’s getting his crab fix by making dishes such as crab lasagna mac and cheese, and chipotle crab and artichoke dip.
At Red Star Tavern in Portland, Ore., chef Dolan Lane is celebrating Dungeness crab season by offering a crab roll on his lunch menu. Lane’s crabby twist on the classic lobster roll features a mound of Dungeness crab dressed with charred jalapeño dressing, cucumber, avocado and pickled fennel on a housemade roll.
“The Dungeness crab roll is a fun, approachable way to enjoy and lighten up what can be a somewhat decadent item,” Lane said.
He also likes to send the dressed crab to customers as an amuse-bouche, served on a housemade lime potato chip with sorrel dressing and apple.
Also a big fan of crab is chef John Shields of Smyth in Chicago.
“I like to take a lot of old ideas and see what’s happening now, meld the two,” Shields said.
On his tasting menu at Smyth, Shields is currently serving his version of a surf and turf, using crab and foie gras.
The dish is comprised of poached crab in a garlic butter broth with an egg custard made of crab innards, topped with salt-water-poached foie gras. On the menu since the restaurant opened in late summer, Shields said the dish has already become a signature item, and will likely remain on the menu into the new year.
Meanwhile, other chefs are getting creative with another favorite crab variety: Blue crab.
At David Burke Kitchen in New York City, executive chef Raoul Whitaker’s new fall dish is crab and shrimp arancini. Inspired by an “unusual Italian take on the Creole favorite, gumbo and dirty rice,” the crab and shrimp arancini is filled with blue crab, shrimp, andouille sausage, onions, bell peppers, scallions, Parmesan cheese, butter and a gumbo spice blend.
“Crab is an incredible ingredient; it is delicate and brings a sweetness to the plate,” Whitaker said. “At David Burke Kitchen, we use crab throughout the year, as it is one of my favorite shellfish.”
Also taking inspiration from Louisiana is chef Antoine Ware of Harold's Restaurant, Bar & Terrace in Houston. Last September, Ware offered an entree of blue crabmeat served with fresh spaghetti and topped with a salad made from one of his favorite Louisiana ingredients, mirlitons — also known as chayote. Ware says the dish will likely make a re-appearance soon.
Seafood, including crab, is highlighted at Plan Check Santa Monica, the latest outpost of the Los Angeles-based, meat-centric gastropub. The new location features five new seafood items not available at the chain’s other locations, including a seafood platter with chilled lobster, shrimp, calamari and clams served with a side of dynamite crab dip. The baked dip is made with jumbo lump crab mixed with béchamel and dressed with masago, charred tomato and shredded nori. It’s also available as an appetizer served with toasted ciabatta.
Correction: Dec. 5, 2016 An earlier version of this article misstated the name of David Burke Kitchen.