Posted in Florida on October 22, 2011 by Victoria Allman
Splash! Splash! A tarpon jumped and flopped back into the still Intracoastal waters to the left of us. I could barely avert my eyes from the food in front of me to see the ripples in the water. On my plate, sat six more succulent stone crab claws. The juice of the first crabs rolled through my fingers, their shells piled high in a bowl by my elbow. Patrick and I did not speak, could not, we were too busy sucking the sweet meat from the cartilage. The river was quiet that night, devoid of the normal yacht and dingy traffic cruising past. The only sound that filled the air after the splash was the continual zit, zit, zit of the cicadas in the mangroves across the water.
It is stone crab season in Florida, a time that makes me thankful the yacht has returned to this part of the world. We have spent the last few years in the Mediterranean, and although seafood abounded, I had missed stone crabs. When most people think of Florida, they think of Disney, the beaches, and the endless strip malls. But, when I think of Florida, I think stone crab.
Stone crab are unique to the warm waters here. They are found from the southern tip of Florida to the Keys and all along the Gulf of Mexico. But, what makes them so special is that they are a renewable resource. The crabbers in the area drop their baited traps in the water. When they pull them up, the crabs have two claws. The crabbers carefully remove only one of the claws, then release them back into the water. The crabs are unharmed and over the next year they regenerate the lost claw and are ready to be caught again. This makes them a sustainable seafood that is well managed. There is no by-catch and little habitat damage, a fact I like when I serve stone crabs on the yacht.
That night, as many in the past, we went to Billy's for our first taste of stone crab this season. We ordered margaritas, coleslaw, hashbrowns and all-you-can-eat claws. It was a ritual, for us, and many others. This year, in particular, the claws were mouthwatering and rich. It was not fancy, but it was tasty.
On the yacht, I am reluctant to serve cracked claws as is. I shudder to think of guests dripping shellfish juice down their Versace gowns. Instead, I do all the work for them. I scrape the meat from the claw and mix it with just a little lime juice and Greek yogurt to make a crab salad. I form the mixture in a ring mold and top that with avocado mousse and a tomato salsa. On a yacht, it is all about pretty plates.
But, at Billy's, it is all about flavor. And, as I dipped into my second round of all-you-can-eats, I could think of nothing better than having the juice of the stone crab roll down my elbows.
photo by Shalimar Orlanes
Stone Crab and Avocado Tower
2 pounds stone crabs, cracked and cleaned
1/4 cup plain Greek-style Yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 teaspoons sea salt
2 drops hot sauce
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 egg white
1 red tomato, finely diced
1 yellow tomato, finely diced
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 lime, squeezed for juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 drop hot sauce
Combine the first seven ingredients in a bowl, taking care not to mash the crab too much. Taste for seasoning. Adjust the amount of hot sauce if necessary, keeping in mind it is the crab you want to taste.
In a clean, stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. In another bowl, mash the avocado with the lime juice and sea salt. Pass the avocado mix through a fine sieve to make sure there are no lumps. Gently fold together egg whites and avocado to form a light mousse. Taste for acidity. Adjust the level of lime juice if necessary. Note: Avocado discolors quickly, do this step right before serving.
Combine the last eight ingredients for a tomato salsa. Taste.
In a stainless ring mold, build a tower of crab, three-quarters of the way up the side, in the center of the plate. Top with avocado mousse. Spoon three piles of salsa around the outside of the tower. Garnish with cilantro.
great food and fun! best place for all you can eat seafood and the nmebur of people is limited so you don't have to wait in line or for food. Be there 2011, if the river don't rise.
Hi Victoria. I am looking for fresh crab in Saskatchewan. Any ideas where to look? Ha Ha... I am soooo jealous. Jamie Bryshun.
Hi Mardi. Welcome to my web-site. I think finding fresh crab is much better than a Versace gown, but crab cakes done any way is a hit with me!