By Fred Thompson
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Extra info for Crazy for Crab: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Fabulous Crab at Home
Soft-Shell Crabs Soft shells are a wonderful treat when handled properly. Soft-shell crabs are sold live, fresh dressed (cleaned), and dressed and frozen. Live soft shells are packed in layers separated by eelgrass and are shipped for quick sale. Since these crabs have molted, which is stressful for the crabs, they are very docile. Some may look dead, while others actually are dead. Look for motion and bubbles around the face. Blow gently on the crabs and see if they stir, or touch them (or have your fishmonger do so).
Peekytoe crabs cannot be shipped live because they are so perishable. The cooking and picking of peekytoe crabs is still a cottage industry carried out by the wives of lobstermen. What started in their kitchens is now done in FDA-approved buildings constructed next to their homes. The talent of pickers varies from house to house, and high-profile chefs have their favorites. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry in Yountville, California, arguably the finest restaurant in the country, requests that his favorite picker sign each container she picks and packs for him.
If your crabs are put in a plastic bag, be sure to poke a few holes in it. If it's warm out, ask for some ice to help keep them cool until you get home. Store them in a loosely closed paper bag in the lower part of your refrigerator. Cook the crabs the same day you buy them if possible, but you can hold them for 24 hours if necessary. The chill will make them subdued, but when you cook them, they should put up a mild fuss when they sense the heat. Discard any that don't. Live Dungeness and Jonah crabs are sold from a saltwater tank.
Crazy for Crab: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Fabulous Crab at Home by Fred Thompson