The Duc has a great technique for cooking lobster. It works for crab too. He says he learned while traveling in South East India in the early 80s where you could get cooked lobsters on the beach for 2$. Apparently, they were cooked for 1 hour (!!heaven forbid!!) but which proved to have the most delicious flesh because the water never boiled and it took forever to get the water hot given the shortage of firewood near the beach.
Choosing the crab: it must be alive (still moving) and the males are better than the females (more flavor and more full of flesh-meat). Ask your fishmonger, they’ll know.
just barely fit into the cocotte
Cooking the crab:
Place the crab in a large enough pot (mine was just barely big enough for this bigger than I expected crab!)
Fill with cold water amply salted (sea salt is preferred). Do this by taste. It should be like seawater. You don’t want the crabmeat to lose the seawater taste in the meat. And you don’t want to increase the saltiness either.
First use the highest heat to bring the water to a temperature similar to that at which you like to sip soups. No more. Never let the water even boil; or you will loose some of the flesh. This period of high heat is only about 4-7 minutes.
Then turn off heat or turn it to very low (depends on size of crab, amount of water, power of heat). Keep the crab at this lowest heat for cooking for 10-20 minutes.
If you see any white flakes in your cooking water, either the water is too hot or the crab is cooked. Remove the crab from the water immediately.
The crab in these photos was so big that it was a full meal for 2 (we had a green salad afterwards). We had it just plain. No sauce. No lemons. Just the crabmeat. Delicious.
To accompany the beast, we had a 2004 Petit Chablis from Vincent Dauvissat. 2004 is a great Chablis vintage, contrary to its reputation. You can still find them in shops. You can almost buy them blind (as long as they have been properly stored). I found this wine recently at a discount sale. Nobody believes in the 2004 vintage. And nobody wants ‘petit’ anything even though wines today labeled Petit Chablis comes from 30-45 year old vines (medium old vines).
The pale yellow color has some green tinges that are a positive sign of acidity and youth.
The aromas were typical of Chablis (lemons, butter, sautéing mushrooms and the increasingly rare aroma of crushed stones) with an herbal butter redolent of noble herb butter Puligny Montrachet.
The mouth was more in a linear lemon butter and chalk dust style. Unfortunately not quite ‘fat’ and complex enough for the slow cooked crabmeat.