Crack. Crack. Crack. That long anticipated sound has returned to South Florida seafood establishments.
It’s time once again to reach for your hammers and grab that requisite mustard sauce.
The stone crab claws are scuttling off the boats.
Stone crabs, says one purveyor, are Florida’s standout seasonal offering. “No one else has them,” says Simon Chen, owner and chef at Gulfstream Bistro in West Palm Beach.
The claws, which hit the market last Wednesday, are sweet and “very addicting,” he says. “Once you have one, you want to have ten more.”
At Gulfstream Bistro and Seafood Market, they started the season selling medium, large and jumbo claws ranging from $26.95 per pound for the medium up to $49.95 for the jumbo in the seafood market. The colossal claws, which will be about one and a half times bigger than the jumbo, are expected to arrive this week.
“Sometimes they’re the size of my palm,” says Michelle Chen, co-owner of Gulfstream.
Stone crab claws have been commercially harvested since the 1930s and are considered a renewable resource since the crabs are able to regrow their claws. At Gulfstream Bistro alone, the market and restaurant sells about 200 to 300 pounds of stone crabs per week.
“Usually the first week is always high (in prices) because the demand is high. But after a week, things settle down and the price will go down,” Michelle Chen says.
Gulfstream gets its claws from the Everglades, Key West, Naples and Sebastian. “All local,” she says.
On the restaurant side of Gulfstream, the crabs are served with coleslaw and the house-made mustard sauce, which is made with mayo, heavy cream, lemon juice, a touch of Old Bay and salt and pepper.
Gulfstream has been around for 35 years and owned by the Chens for four years.
A meaty stone crab claw is “basically Florida’s treasure,” says Simon Chen, who is the former chef at Ta-Boo on Palm Beach. “Everybody eats it.”
WHERE TO BUY THEM
Here are three local markets popular for their selection of claws:
- Gulfstream Bistro & Seafood Market: 3815 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-366-1346; GulfstreamBistro.com. Market is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Restaurant is open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Capt. Frank’s Seafood Market: 435 W. Boynton Beach Blvd., Boynton Beach; 561-732-3663
- Cod & Caper’s: 1201 U.S. Highway One, Suite 47 (in the Crystal Tree Plaza), North Palm Beach; 561-622-0963; CodAndCapers.com. The market cafe offers popular Wednesday night stone crab specials (claws, coleslaw and homemade mustard sauce).
WHERE TO EAT THEM:
- PB Catch: 251 Sunrise Ave., Palm Beach; 561-655-5558
- Seafood Bar at The Breakers: One South County Road, Palm Beach; 561-659-8488; TheBreakers.com
- Riggin’s Crabhouse: 607 Ridge Rd., Lantana; 561-586-3000
- 50 Ocean: 50 South Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach; 561-278-3364; 50Ocean.com
- Truluck’s: 351 Plaza Real (Mizner Park), Boca Raton; 561-391-0775
STONE CRAB 411
- Sweet, firm stone crabs are harvested in Florida waters throughout all but five months during the year. Their lives are spared, thanks to these crabs’ ability to grow back their lost claws.
- Because harvesting the whole stone crab is forbidden by state law, crab fishermen must remove only the claws and allow the live crabs to return to the water to grow back their limbs, a process that takes about 18 months.
- To be legal, the claws must measure at least 2-3/4 inches long. Claws from egg-bearing females are off limits.
- After they’re harvested, claws are iced, cooked right away, then immersed in ice water once again to stop the meat from sticking to the shell.
- To eat them, crack the shell with a hammer or mallet. Pluck away the shell and pick out the crab meat.
- Store cooked claws in the coldest part of the fridge and use within two days. Uncracked claws can be frozen for up to six months.
- Do not thaw frozen claws under running water. To preserve their quality, thaw them in the fridge 12 to 18 hours.
- Claws are not only delicious, they’re lean and protein-packed — 4 ounces of claw meat have 60 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams carbohydrate, 15 grams protein and 300 mg sodium.
SOURCE: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services