In season: king crab

November is the season for winter squash, peppery greens, root vegetables and king crab. Yes, seafood can have a season, too. November, and perhaps December, brings fresh king crab to restaurants and local seafood shops such as Kathleen’s Catch in Johns Creek.

Kathleen Hulsey is the proprietor of Kathleen’s Catch, a neighborhood seafood shop tucked into a shopping center on Medlock Bridge Road.

Hulsey gets fresh seafood delivered every morning. One of the most eagerly awaited deliveries is the arrival of fresh king crab.

Frozen king crab is available throughout the year, but Hulsey says, “All frozen king crab have added salt which masks the naturally sweet flavor of the crab. Most people think of king crab as salty, but that is only because they have never had fresh, unsalted crab. Frozen crab will also lose close to half its weight when thawed as the salt causes it to absorb a lot of extra water.”

Hulsey is so close to her seafood sources that she can tell her customers which boat caught her king crab, where the boat docks and how the crab is processed. “The crabs are caught in traps and kept alive by pumping sea water through the traps. This is necessary because king crab has to be alive when it is cooked. Otherwise the meat will turn mushy,” she said.

This year’s crab, like last year’s, has come to her from Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Once it was steamed, it was flown from Dutch Harbor to Anchorage and then on to Atlanta, reaching her display case within 40 hours of being cooked.

Each harvested crab weighs between seven and 10 pounds. Leg clusters (four legs with one claw) generally average about one-and-a-half pounds each and fresh crab clusters should yield about a pound of meat.

Since the crab is already cooked, it just needs to be heated for serving. Hulsey suggests using poultry shears to separate the legs into manageable pieces and bake them on a rimmed baking sheet at 475 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. “Cut them open and dip the meat in hot butter. It’s the ultimate gourmet fast food,” she says.

If buying frozen king crab, she suggests that buying bigger is better. “It’s a lot of work to cut through previously frozen shells so you want as much meat as possible as the reward for all your efforts. The shells should be bright with no white, dried spots which could indicate freezer burn.”

Canoe’s Alaskan Red King Crab Salad

The restaurant only serves this salad when king crab is in season and available fresh. For our photo, the chef has garnished the salad with whole crab legs.

2 pounds Alaskan king crab legs, cracked and meat removed, meat and shells reserved separately

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

1 small rib celery, coarsely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 sprig thyme

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

Salt

3 tablespoons Ginger-Lime Butter (see recipe)

2 red grapefruit, peel and pith removed, fruit cut into segments

1 fennel bulb, leaves and base trimmed, thinly sliced

1 head butter lettuce, leaves torn

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup Ginger-Chili Dressing (see recipe)

Pepper

In a large stockpot, cover crab shells with water and bring to a boil. Add onion, celery, bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 1 hour. Liquid should just cover crab shells as the stock cooks. Add water if needed. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve and taste for salt. Chill stock until ready to use. Discard solids.

In a large skillet, melt Ginger-Lime Butter over medium heat. Once butter has melted add 1/2 cup crab stock and bring to gentle boil. Remove from heat and add crab meat. Allow mixture to sit until crab has warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Divide crab between four serving plates. Divide butter used to warm crab into four small dishes to serve with salad for dipping crab meat.

In a large bowl, combine grapefruit segments, lettuce, thinly sliced fennel and onion and toss. Add dressing and season to taste. Arrange salad beside crab and serve immediately. Serves: 4

Per serving: 304 calories (percent of calories from fat, 32), 24 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 11 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 71 milligrams cholesterol, 1,090 milligrams sodium.

Ginger-Lime Butter

The restaurant prefers Land O’Lakes butter and Red Boat fish sauce. The restaurant makes this butter in one pound batches, which makes it easier to cream the butter, but creaming can still be done with this small quantity.

1 head garlic

1 stick (four ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1-inch knob ginger, peeled

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon fish sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice off top of head of garlic to expose tops of garlic cloves. Arrange garlic on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap garlic tightly and roast until cloves are lightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, unwrap and allow to cool.

When garlic has cooled, in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium until it has turned white, about 5 minutes.

While butter is beating, use a microplane to grate ginger into a piece of cheesecloth. Grasp cheesecloth to make a bundle of grated ginger and squeeze ginger juice into a small bowl. Turn mixer off and add juice to softened butter. Add lime zest and juice, cilantro, 1 1/2 teaspoons roasted garlic, pepper and fish sauce. Turn mixer to slow and beat until well combined. Reserve remaining roasted garlic for another use. Scrape butter from mixer bowl and form into cylinders on plastic wrap. Wrap cylinder tightly with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. May be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month. Makes: 5/8 cup

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 96 calories (percent of calories from fat, 94), trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 10 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 28 milligrams cholesterol, 3 milligrams sodium.

Ginger-Chili Dressing

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

1 1-inch knob ginger, peeled, finely minced

1 shallot, finely minced

1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely minced

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese (or other hot) mustard

Make simple syrup: In a 2-cup glass measuring cup or medium bowl, combine water and sugar. Heat in microwave for 2 minutes. Carefully remove and stir to dissolve sugar. Set aside to cool.

When simple syrup is cool, pour into a 1-quart Mason jar. Add sweet chili sauce, ginger, shallot, jalapeno, sesame oil, vinegar and mustard. Shake vigorously. Can be made up to 1 week ahead and refrigerated. Makes: 1 1/4 cups

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 30 calories (percent of calories from fat, 23), trace protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 1 gram fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 6 milligrams sodium.

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