Previously, I mentioned picking up Florida stone crab at Wild Ocean Seafood in Titusville. Stone crab season begins in mid October signaling the arrival of fall and cool, dry weather in Florida.
Only claws that are legally sized are harvested. The large and powerful claws contain most of the stone crab’s meat. The crab is returned to its habitat where it may regenerate the claw over twelve to eighteen months. Because the harvest is managed and only the claw is taken the fisheries are considered sustainable.
Appreciating San Francisco’s enthusiasm for the opening of the Dungeness crab season in November, I began while living there a personal tradition of enjoying Roasted Dungeness crab in November served with my version of Vietnamese American garlic noodles. Traditionally, on the Eve of Christmas, a seafood soup was prepared featuring Dungeness crab. This soup is in the style of a light, French bouillabaisse rather than a San Francisco Cioppino.
Back in Florida, I renewed my relationship with stone crab after a long absence. Thinking back I realize I had taken these crustaceans for granted when living in Florida before. Now, I look forward to seeing stone crabs showing up in markets. Moreover, in my first year back I found that the Dungeness crab dishes I enjoyed in San Francisco were as good, or even better when made with Florida’s stone crab.
Stone crab claws are cooked by boiling when off loaded at the docks. The cooked claws are kept on refrigerated on ice and most often served cold with drawn butter, or a traditional mustard sauce that originated at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach.
In this preparation, stone crab claws are arranged with aromatic vegetables, herb, citrus, chili, wine and a generous splash of Pernod – a French anise (liquorice) flavored liqueur. Let the dish sit refrigerated for a few hours so that the flavors meld before roasting in the oven until aromatic and just warm.
Stone crab claws vary in size (and price) from medium to super jumbo so it’s best to buy claws by the pound in whatever size you choose. Plan on 1 pound per person. The dish shown here was made with 6 pounds of stone crab. It served 5 people with plenty left over.
(Note: The photos show the dish before roasting. I made this at home before carrying it to a friend’s house where it was heated for serving.)
Your guests will appreciate if you crack the claws before roasting and serving. Stone crabs have thick shells that in my experience must be cracked with a hammer. The flat side of a meat tenderizing hammer works well for this job.
The recipe is a general guideline. Other the herbs and vegetables can be freely substituted. Moreover, the quantities don’t matter too much as these ingredients are meant to add flavor and are not served with the claws. The only essentials in my view are the use of fennel and a splash of Pernod.
The recipe has been scaled to a preparation of 2 pounds of stone crab – enough for 2 people. It pairs with garlic noodles and a recipe is provided. Enjoy this during the exceptional fall weather in Florida, with friends and a crisp, white wine. Buon appetito!
For the stone crab
- 2 lbs. (1 pound per person) stone crabs, cracked
- 1 small bulb of fennel sliced 1/4” thick
- 1 medium leek, white part only sliced into coins
- 2 large cloves of garlic minced
- 1 habanero pepper seeds removed and finely diced (use gloves for this)
- 1 lemon cut in half and then quartered (eight pieces)
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons of chopped dill
- 1 generous cup of white wine
- 1/2 cup of Pernod
For the garlic noodles (approximate quantities, adjust to taste)
- 4 to 6 cloves of finely minced garlic
- 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter (6 ounces) in large cubes
- 1 pound of spaghetti cooked to just before done (about 8 minutes)
- 2 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Generous amount of fresh ground black pepper (about 2 tablespoons)
- Chopped parsley for garnish
For the stone crab
- Arrange cracked crab claws in an oven proof roasting or backing pan
- Add the balance of the ingredients to the pan and toss to combine. Let sit covered in a refrigerator for at least an hour to let the flavors combine.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
- Place the cover pan in the oven and roast until crabs are warm to the touch. About 20 minutes. Serve.
For the garlic noodles
- Add garlic and butter to a medium saucepan and place on medium low heat burner. Heat the mixture slowly until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat before the butter browns. Set aside
- Add the butter to a large skillet or sauté pan with the spaghetti. Toss to combine. Add fish sauce and Parmesan cheese. Stir to warm through while adding black pepper. Taste and adjust.
- Garnish and serve