Feel free to hate me for what I’m about to tell you: we have too much crab. I did work for them, though; with late-night runs down to the dock in the cold rain to haul up the trap in the pitch dark, with a dead flashlight, chasing the spidery little beasts across the slippery dock and coaxing them out of the trap doors into the pink Easter bucket covered with butterflies that has become the Tofino crab bucket. All the while completely freaking myself out and trying not to get pinched. Have you heard the sound crabs make when piled on top of each other in a bucket and strapped to the passenger? Sort of half hissing, half clicking, claws creeping up over the edge in an attempt to pull themselves out. The sound I imagine giant bugs or aliens might make. But hey – for the price of a fishing license and package of hot dogs, I’m not complaining.
This week I’ve become an expert at determining the sex of a crab – a skill I never thought would come in handy. (You can only keep the males.) I also learned, with my friend K, that crabs love hot dogs, and that if you drop the trap off the dock (with aforementioned dogs dangling in an empty water bottle strung up with wire and jabbed with a pocketknife) when the tide is out, as it comes in the crab will come with it, and stop in for a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet.
Too much crab isn’t quite as dreamy as it might sound – the glut of shellfish brought back Mike’s gout, and the excessive melted butter that served as dip has not helped my pants fit any better. After two nights of steamed crab legs, it occurred to me that one could do more with fresh crab than make a mess of the kitchen table with crackers and pots of garlicky melted butter. What do I love that contains crab?
California rolls. I’ll be the first to stand up and admit I’m a wimp when it comes to sushi. I scrape off the roe (it reminds me of the time my uncle dangled the smelly, bright red giant fish egg bait at me on a fishing trip, making me throw up) and I don’t venture beyond at best a slab of raw tuna or salmon. You can forget the eel and abalone and urchin – I’m happy with a nice safe California roll. Or a dynamite roll, if there is the option of crispy tempura shrimp.
Of course I have no sushi mat, but when I stopped in at the teeny Beaches grocery store I bought a bag of jasmine rice and a perfectly ripe avocado; I had bought a bag of toasted sesame seeds at a wee Asian shop in Ucluelet, just because it seemed such an odd thing to be able to buy in a town with only one grocery store and (I think) no traffic lights. I thought I’d deconstruct the whole mess – which is what happens when I try to eat one anyway – and do a sort of layered salad of sorts.
Poking around to make sure I wasn’t forgetting what went into a California roll, I discovered I wasn’t quite as originally brilliant as I had thought for the previous five minutes. I found a couple sushi roll salad recipes, which was fortuitous as I took their advice to season the rice with a mixture of rice vinegar and sugar, which made all the difference. Beyond that I added grated carrot, chopped cucumber, sliced avocado and a mound of crabmeat, moistened with a little mayo. Feel free to add some sliced nori, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ve been crawling around on far too many seaweed-covered rocks lately.
Deconstructed California Rolls
If you’re starting with fresh crab legs, steam them for 7-8 minutes in a covered pot with an inch or two of water. (Make sure your husband gets rid of all the bits of shell when he picks out the meat.)
1 cup long grain white or sushi rice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 carrot, grated
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4-1/2 English cucumber, diced
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
1/2 lb. (or as much as you want) lump crabmeat (cooked)
1 Tbsp. mayo
salt to taste
toasted sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Cook the rice however you would normally cook it, then spread it out while still hot on a rimmed baking sheet. Bring the vinegar and sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan, then pour it over the rice, tossing it about to coat.
When the rice is cool, put it into a bowl and add the carrot, green onions and cucumber. Divide among 4 wide, shallow bowls. Top with avocado. In a small bowl, stir together the crab, mayo and salt; divide between the bowls, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and cilantro.
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