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Date: Mon, 31 Jul 1995 04:23:09 -0500
The wonders of trouble-free crab cooking, described:

| John's "trouble free" steamed crab recipe (which makes a lie of the "you
| wouldn't eat X if you had to kill it yourself" argument).
| Every once in a blue moon I like to entertain. I buy some exotic
| ingredients and try a new recipe for a few people. Last night's menu was
| Pilipino style Paella (an originally Spanish rice, seafood and meat
| stew). I took off early (hey- no faculty read this right?) and went to
| Berkowitz seafood in the strip to get some squid, clams, shrimp and
| crabs. The squid, clams and shrimp were not a problem (all purchased dead-
| since I didn't feel like purging clams).
| The crabs were a problem. I directed the woman helping me to two of the
| fiestier ones in the tank (probably in better shape than the sluggish
| ones). We boxed them up and I proceeded to drive home (they made cute
| little scraping sounds trying to climb out of the box the whole time). Get
| home dump the crabs out of the box into one sink each and spray them with a
| little water (I figure even though it is fresh water it might help their
| gills). I put off cooking the crabs until last (as they need much less
| cooking time than the chicken, pork, sausage, and rice that goes into the
| Paella).
| Finally it is time to do the crabs. I have them flipped on their backs in
| separate sinks (I separated the crabs because one was acting aggressive),
| which makes them look like the face-grabbing monsters from Alien. The
| cookbook says to kill them by "putting an ice-pick through the central
| nervous system" which can be gotten at from the bottom of the crab- dead
| (haha) center between the claws and first legs. I first go after the slower
| one of the two. I touch correct point of the under-shell with a very thin
| filet knife and the legs of the crab convulsively reach up for my hand-
| just like in Alien. After about seven tries I work up the nerve to hold the
| crab down with a meat tenderizer and drive the filet knife through the
| central nervous system. The crab gives one of those really repulsive dying
| spasms with means all legs again lunge up at me one last time- but
| faster. I back off take some breaths and poke at the legs with the
| knife. The legs move a little but the crab seems to be dead. By this time I
| really don't have the nerve to do the second, faster, crab. With extreme
| effort of will I touch the underside of the second crab with the filet
| knife- it lunges worse than the other one ever did, the "dead" crab gives
| an uncoordinated twitch in sympathy and something makes a rattling sound at
| the front door. I rush the front door knife in one hand heavy mallet in the
| other only to run into a horrified Nina a shocked Vince, both just arrived.
| Most of the meal is ready, everyone has arrived, the steamer is boiling
| furiously and one crab is already dead- no more fooling around, I have to
| do the other one. After about 13 attempts I hold the crab down and drive
| the filet knife through the magic spot. The crab is really pissed now-
| either the cookbook lied, or I missed or crabs don't need their "central
| nervous system" for much. I hit the knife with the mallet (so I don't have
| to reach near the wriggling legs) which drives it all the way through the
| crab- piercing the top shell underneath. The vote from the peanut gallery
| is to forget steaming, boil some water and poach the bastard right in the
| sink (no one going for the St. Francis medallion tonight). While boiling
| water I smack the embedded knife with a a few times plastic serving spoon
| to see what would happen if I tried to remove the knife. The crab legs come
| up, I panic, smack the knife and shatter the spoon. I have had enough of
| this so I put the first crab in one layer of the steamer (using another
| pair of spoons)- it doesn't fit too well but it is in. I pick up the second
| crab by the knife and place it on the next layer of the steamer. The bottom
| ("dead") crab keeps sticking an occasional leg out (which I poke back
| in). The top crab seems somewhat less fiesty but now the knife won't come
| out (it is stuck in the upper shell). I hold the crab down with the mallet
| and pull- no luck. Finally I lift the grab up and drop it into the
| stainless steel sink- which dislodged the knife. I scoop the second crab
| into the top level of the steamer and slam the top down. There is still
| some wriggling going on- but everything is manageable. I wait and the
| wriggling stops- okay everybody who should be is dead.
| I transfer the steaming baskets to the boiling water. Look back and the
| steamer lid is trying to crawl away. Lunge to hold it down (ow- steam)
| finally use the mallet to weigh it down. Leave the kitchen, take some
| breaths, steamer is still struggling. Nina and Vince and discussing
| becoming vegetarians- couple of assertive motions with the filet knife and
| they fall back in line. Leave the steamer alone for 8 minutes (as directed
| in the cookbook), split latterly with a heavy cleaver, remove top shell and
| scoop out the gills and all the icky green stuff.
| Trouble free steamed crab. 
| Author:  http://www.cs.cmu.edu/Web/People/jmount/homepage.html

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