(News-Press) -- Every day for the past week, Island Crab Co. boats have left St.
James City in the early dawn, dropping thousands of pots in the Gulf of
Crabbers only need to be in about
18 feet of water to set traps for stone crabs, but the succulent meat
found in its claws is a favorite in Southwest Florida, and local seafood
companies and restaurants have avidly prepared for season, which
started Tuesday and runs through May 15.
come to Florida for two foods: one is grouper and the other is stone
crabs because this is the only place in the world where you can catch
them," said Grant Phelan, director of operations for Naples-based
Pinchers Crab Shack.
company - which has nine area locations with the 10th opening in Cape
Coral at the end of this month - has been serving stone crab claws since
the first restaurant opened in 1997, and the popularity of the claws
has increased every year exponentially, he said.
first night of season, Pinchers planned to serve fresh stone crab claws
it pulled earlier that morning. Its sister company, Island Crab Co.,
has two boats to supply Pinchers restaurants, and then the company will
sell to restaurants across the country.
Others such as Kelly's Fish House Dining Room in Naples planned to offer stone crabs for the first night of season, too.
Naples was still a small fishing village, our fish company started in
the 1930s, said Kelly Ellis, manager of the restaurant. "This is the
last working fish house in Naples."
said customers have already been coming into the restaurant asking what
season will be like, and how much stone crab they'll have.
But often it's hard to say.
just so many things, what's going to be a good year and a bad year,"
Ellis said. "Some years have octopus. Some years the weather is too
warm, some years it's too cold."
In a good year, the restaurant may bring in as many as 300 pounds a day.
years ago there was big problem with octopus, "where they crawl into
the trap and they eat stone crab like candy," Phelan said.
This year, his hopes are high.
year, many of the crabs caught had claws that were under the legal size,
and had to be thrown back. This year, those claws are more mature, he
these suckers the golden nectar of the sea," Phelan said. "There's not a
better flavor than when you take a stone crab claw and dip it in stone
the boats pull up traps, the crabs claws are lopped off and crabs are
tossed back in the ocean to grow a new pair of claws. The claws are
immediately taken back to shore and cooked, then chilled to be served at
the restaurants, he said.
crabs are boiled in the fish house at Island Crab Co. in a large
pressure cooker. Staffers can cook about 1,000 pounds at a time. They
are not seasoned.
"We serve them by the pound, medium large or jumbo and we crack them for you before they go to the table," Phelan said.
why Pinchers prefers to serve them cold - because they are already a
cooked product, said John Vorndran, executive chef for Pinchers.
"If you serve them warm, you're in essence cooking them twice so they can dry out some," he said.
oversees all the purchasing for not only Island Crab Co., but any
purchasing that needs to be done at the restaurant for all locations.
Pinchersis exploring some different ways to use some of the stone crab
offer stone crab tacos, which cost $9 apiece, and a stone crab roll,
which is similar to a traditional lobster roll from the New England
area. The new products will be introduced at the Stone Crab Festivals in
Naples' Tin City and Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota, which kick off on Oct.
crab taco, on a flour tortilla, will include stone crab meat poached in
butter and served with a fire-roasted corn salsa and topped with cheddar
crab roll, which costs $14, is based on a traditional lobster roll and
served on a new England style split top bun. It's served cold in a
mayonnaise base salad with diced red onion, cilantro and diced celery.
the people that know about stone crabs just eat them just the way they
are," Vorndran said. "That's the way that we would like to see people
eat them, but some people like something more culinarily creative. Just
trying to mix it up a little bit."
Yield: 2½ cups
|| ounces sour cream
||tablespoon Dijon mustard
||tablespoons yellow mustard
||teaspoons A-1 steak sauce
||teaspoon heavy cream
||teaspoon black pepper
||teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
• Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
• Transfer to a storage container and keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
(Recipe from John Vorndran, executive chef Pinchers Crab Shack)
Orange horseradish marmalade
|16 to 20
|| stone crab claws
||ounces orange marmalade
||tablespoons fresh horseradish, or more to taste
||sea salt to taste, fresh ground pepper to taste
||orange, sliced in wedges
||fresh herbs, lettuce for garnish
• In a small mixing bowl, combine orange marmalade and horseradish.
• Mix ingredients well. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning with extra horseradish, salt and pepper.
• Serve sauce with stone crab claws. Garnish with lettuce, fresh slices of orange and fresh herbs.
(Recipe from Fresh From Florida, Florida Department of Agriculture)
|| pounds medium stone crab claws
|| cups ripe mango, cut into ½-inch cubes
|| tablespoons of cilantro, finely chopped
|| jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
|| tablespoons of lime juice
|| tablespoon of light brown sugar
• Crack claws and remove shell and moveable pincer, leaving the meat attached to the remaining pincer.
• Place in a single layer in a shallow dish.
• To make salsa marinade, combine mango, cilantro, peppers, lime juice and sugar in a mixing bowl.
• Taste for seasoning, adding more lime juice and/or brown sugar as needed.
• Spoon the salsa mixture over the meaty part of crab claws.
• Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours. Serve claws on a bed of salad greens with mango salsa as an appetizer.
(Source: Fresh From Florida, Florida Department of Agriculture)