Tips for cooking and preparing a spider crab correctly
The other day I had the pleasant opportunity thanks to Cetárea Burela to taste one of the first crabs from O Grove collected after the opening of the fishing season. The spider crab meat is considered a real delicacy by the best gourmets, and of course I invite you to try it this Christmas if you want to give yourself a gastronomic tribute and a feast for your senses.
The spider crab is a crustacean of the crab family. It has a thick, reddish carapace, covered with spikes and with a rough appearance. It also has five pairs of sturdy legs, with small and elongated clamps on the first pair. Like most crustaceans it molts its shell and while the new one hardens, it remains hidden in the algae and submerged in the sand near the coast at a depth of 150 meters.
Coast of Burela
During the summer in Galicia its fishing is usually closed, beginning its capture season between the months of December to March, being carried out with gear such as traps, minos and gillnets.
Today we are going to know how the best way to taste it is, but also how to prepare its meat to enjoy all its flavor. And so, if this Christmas you dare to try it, you can present it at your table as true specialists.
How to cook a spider crab correctly
The ideal way to cook seafood would be to cook it in seawater, but in the face of health problems that it may present and the difficulty of getting it, the ideal is to represent a saturation of salt in the cooking water similar to that of seawater. For this we put a tall and large pot with 70 grams of salt per liter of water, the amount of this would be approximately five liters per piece.
When we come home from the fishmonger with a spider crab, we may find that it is alive, ideally, or that it is no longer alive. The way of cooking differs in whether it comes one way or another.
In the event that our spider crab comes alive, we would cook it in cold water with salt until it boils, counting the cooking time according to the weight of the crustacean from there. In this way, the legs will not be separated from the body due to the contrast with the heat of the water.
On the other hand, if the piece is dead, we should put it to cook in boiling water, counting from the moment of adding the spider crab to the water and it boils again, the minutes of cooking.
As a reference in the times we would say that:
- For a size from 0.500 kg to 1 kg: 17 minutes
- 1 kg to 1,200 kg: 20 minutes
- 1,200 kg to 1,600 kg: 25 minutes
- 1,600 to 2,500 kg: 30 minutes
As soon as the spider crab is cooked, we remove it from the water and it is advisable to consume it next and not store it in the refrigerator, as this changes the texture of the meat, making it dry.
How to prepare the spider crab when serving it
Well, we already have our spider crab cooked, now we must follow a few steps to prepare it in the best possible way to enjoy all its meat.
We will start by removing the flap that is at the bottom and that is actually the abdominal area of the animal.
We make a slight pressure and separate the body with the legs of the shell. We booked this one.
We tear off the fabrics that cover the body in its two halves.
If the animal was female, we overturned the corals to the shell or "car".
With a large chef's knife, we split the body into two halves.
We clean the gray sheets that cover the body. We separate the legs from the body.
We cut each half of the body into pieces with the knife, guiding us by the stretch marks.
We hit the legs with a wooden or silicone hammer to open them.
We remove the webs that cover the meat in the shell.
We mix the meat of the shell and its corals with a fork. In Galicia on many occasions this mixture is lightened by pouring a splash of Albariño wine or cooking water.
We present the ordered pieces for tasting.
How to distinguish if the spider crab is male or female
The meat of the Galician and Cantabrian spider crab is exquisite whether it is our male or female animal, but without a doubt finding a spider crab full of corals or roe increases this gastronomic experience.
Thus, it is important to know if the spider crab is of one gender or another, and although our fishmongers are always kind enough to inform us, it is good if we cannot ask them, that we know how to distinguish them ourselves.
The difference is in the tongue of the abdomen that is in the shell. This tongue in males is triangular, narrow and more pointed, while in females it has a much more rounded shape to carry their roe.
Female spider crab
How to distinguish if our spider crab is native or French
Without detracting from the products of other countries, the quality of the Galician and Cantabrian spider crab is special and far superior to other varieties that we can find in the market.
Thus, this national crustacean has a first cousin of the same species, the French spider crab, which has some differences with our native crustacean and it is important to know them to know first of all what they are selling you.
The French spider crab is distinguished from ours mainly by some details in its shell, since it has a much paler red color than ours and is more rounded, thick and hard than the national one.
In addition, it usually does not present algae attached to its shell, a sign of identity of our Galician spider crab. Just as the French spider crab lacks villi on its shell, typical of our national spider crab.
Finally, the legs of the French spider crab are shorter and with not very sharp nails.
Now that you know all the secrets of this jewel of the sea, it only remains that you are encouraged these holidays to try it.