Prized for its sweet, delicate flesh, Dungeness crab is a west coast specialty. It needs little dressing to make a terrific crab salad, allowing the wonderful flavor to shine through. Add tart-sweet ruby red grapefruit segments and you have a healthy, light first course or light meal thats perfect for the season.
Light, Quick Meal
Much to crab-lovers dismay, Dungeness season in the Pacific Northwest was delayed by a month this year. The usually abundant supply for the holidays has been sparse and is just starting to flow now. Today, I finally got my hands on fresh Dungeness crab at Santa Monica Seafood market.
Wanting a light dinner, I tossed the cooked and shelled Dungeness crab with a little mayonnaise, a little citrus juice, and seasoned with salt and pepper. That’s all. When the crab is this good, you don’t want to over-dress it and mask the sweet fresh flavor. A note on the mayo – I use Vegenaise for it’s light, clean flavor. You can find it in the refrigerated section of better grocers.
How to Segment Grapefruit
Ruby Red grapefruit segments are a nice counterpart to the crab. They add their own tart-sweet flavor and beautiful deep pink color to the plate. The easiest way for most people is to simply cut the grapefruit in half and use a sharp paring knife to cut around each individual segment. Pop the semgents out and remove them fruit, reserve the juice.
Another way is called “to supreme” where you trim off the top and bottom of the citrus and sit it flat, then cut off all of the skin and white pith. Then with a sharp paring knife, cut each segment out over a bowl to catch the juices. Do what works best for you.
Buying already cooked and shelled crab is a lot easier and less messy than buying whole crabs. You may pay more for someone else doing the messy labor. Some markets will shell cooked crab for you. Ask at the seafood counter. Many markets ship Dungeness crab, like this counter at Pike Place Market in Seattle where we visited this year.
For the salad, you’ll need 4-5 ounces (113-142 grams) of cooked crab per person. If you make a smaller portion, this works as a nice first course. If you want to serve it as a light meal, use a little more crab. Add your greens, grapefruit and maybe a nice whole wheat roll or garlic toast and enjoy.
If you can find Dungeness crab, this salad would be a delight to serve New Year’s Day with a glass of chilled, crisp Champagne or sparkling wine to celebrate the start of a New Year.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch report on Dungeness Crab lists it as a “best choice” in terms of its sustainability rating.
If you find live Dungeness crabs in a tank and want to try your hand at grilling them, here is an article and recipe from Russ Parsons of the LA Times.
Dungeness crab is a west coast specialty. The sweet, delicate meat makes a wonderful salad for a first course or a light meal. Its healthy, simple and takes just minutes to prepare. A glass of Champagne, sparkling white wine or mineral water would be a festive choice to accompany it. Another nice addition to the salad would be thin cucumber slices or avocado wedges.
- 1/2 of a large ruby red grapefruit
- 8-10 ounces (227-285 grams) crab (preferably Dungeness)
- 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (I use Vegenaise)
- 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Microgreens for garnish
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 2-3 teaspoons of light vinegar, such as Champagne or white Balsamic
- Start by segmenting your grapefruit. The easiest way is to cut the grapefruit in half crosswise through the hemisphere. Then using a sharp paring knife, cut around each individual segment, freeing it from the half, reserving the juice. (see the photos in the post)
- Place the crab in a medium bowl. Pick through the crab and discard any small pieces of shell. Add the mayonnaise and grapefruit juice and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper. Plate in a ring mold (notes below) in the center of a salad plate, add the grapefruit segments. Whisk together the oil and vinegar and drizzle a little around the plate. You can also use a little vinaigrette to dress the microgreens to top the crab.
- Plating Notes – To plate as I did in a tower, use a 2 3/4″ – 3″ metal ring mold. I have a small kit that is fun to play with and handy for pretty presentations. A good one to buy one is from Ateco. It has two ring molds, a tamper and metal spatula. It’s a fun and inexpensive kit to have in your kitchen tools arsenal. Its available on Amazon or possibly at restaurant supply stores. You can also find plain ring molds at restaurant supply stores and many cooking stores.