written by Thor Erickson | photos by Rob Kerr
At 22, I moved to Oregon’s central coast after accepting an offer to be a sous chef at a new and popular restaurant. I moved to the sight-unseen beach town from California’s Bay Area and looked for things to do outside of work. There wasn’t much happening. At all.
After a couple of weeks, I realized two types of people flocked to the region: those who wanted to find themselves (via a spiritual awakening on the edge of the continent) or those who wanted to find dinner (for those seeking creatures from the ocean).
I befriended a fisherman who stopped by the restaurant to sell his catch, and he invited me on his crab boat. The crew dropped crab pots and hauled up the traps they’d left the day before.
I set out with the crusty boat captain one damp and bone-chilling day at 5 a.m. Within an hour, the crew had emptied the pots, boiled the bounty (right on the boat), and then shoved the crustaceans into vats of ice. The sun came up, and we headed back to shore. Dungeness crab is the best there is,” he said. “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
On a recent trip to Pacific City, while at a small market in Cape Kiwanda, Craig Wenrick, captain of the Sea Q Fish, delivered his Dungeness to the back door, straight from a local dory boat. He runs his boat out of the little coastal town and had just piloted his crab-laden craft onto the beach about 200 feet from where we stood. When Wenrick heard that I was buying the crab before they were put in the case, he came over to me and said, “Dungeness crab is the best—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
To prepare Dungeness crab, I keep it simple, re-heating the previously cooked, cleaned crab in a pot of court bouillon. Court bouillon, also called short broth, is created with water, white wine and aromatics. It is traditionally used as a flavorful liquid for poaching. I love it because it is one of the best-smelling things on the planet. Serve the steaming crab with hot melted butter, lemon wedges, a fresh loaf of bread and a green salad. Enjoy it with friends to experience one of the best pleasures that the coast can offer.
1 1/2 quarts water
2 cups white wine
3 lemons, halved
1 onion, quartered
1/2 celery stalk, chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 to 5 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. Strain or use chunky the first time, then strain through a fine mesh and either refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to two months. Either way, be sure to bring to a boil before reusing.