What is in this article?:
- Restaurants ready for Dungeness crab season
- A delicacy rich in tradition
Chefs at restaurants like Alioto's, Pescatore and Oceana create unique dishes with the West Coast delicacy, Dungeness crab
Dungeness crab season has begun, and chefs across the country are gearing up to celebrate this West Coast delicacy.
Named after a seaport in Washington state, Dungeness crabs molt between June and August and spend the next few months eating and filling up their new shells, according to a spokesman from the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. The crab’s meat-to-shell ratio is tested, and once it’s high enough for a consistent, high-quality product, the season is opened for commercial fishing.
In order to maintain the fishery, only male crabs with shells measuring 6.25 inches across or larger may be harvested. Those crabs are about four years old, the spokesman said.
“Around here, Dungeness crab season is like Christmas for adults,” said Matt Violante, general manager of Alioto’s restaurant in San Francisco. “Everyone calls to ask when we’re going fishing, when the season starts, so they can get it on their table.”
When the crabs are in season, Alioto’s customers eat them simply boiled in sea salt water, or marinated with garlic, parsley, cilantro and olive oil and then roasted, for about $9.50 per pound. They’ll also eat the crabs in Violante’s great grandmother’s recipe for cioppino, a Pacific Northwest version of bouillabaisse that the restaurant makes with crab, mussels, prawns and scallops in a spicy tomato broth. It is priced at $36.
Violante reports that the crabs so far are large this year — around 2 pounds each — compared to last year, when they were closer to 1.5 pounds.
Those crabs are coming from Sonoma County or points south, as Dungeness crab season in northern waters will not likely open until Dec. 1 or later, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.
“What I like about it really is the community that it brings about, especially in San Francisco, and how it transforms celebration in a sense,” said Ruthie White, general manager of Pescatore in San Francisco.