How to extract meat from a whole crab and make a crab and melon salad

Whether its in hand cut white sandwiches, topping salads or in pasta with a hint of chilli, this crustacean's meat is some of the most versatile of the whole seafood family

Monica Galetti
Wednesday 04 April 2018 11:39 BST
Dressed crab: with Tobasco, avocado, fennel and melon this dish is as summery as it comes
Dressed crab: with Tobasco, avocado, fennel and melon this dish is as summery as it comes (Photos Cristian Barnett)

Extracting the meat from a whole crab is a time-consuming job – picking all the meat out of the legs, claws and body, double-checking for bits of shells, etc.

But the flavour makes it worth it, and you get the additional bonus of the crab shells to make a flavourful bisque or stock as a base for other dishes.

Remember to use all the juice that is extracted from the body, as it imparts loads of flavour.

For the sweetest meat, go for a female crab. But if you prefer the white meat, you'll get more of that in a male crab.

When buying a crab, make sure it's alive, feels heavy but doesn't have water sloshing around inside (Cristian Barnett)

Cooking crabs and lobsters

Always choose a crab or lobster that feels heavy for its size and smells fresh. They are best cooked immediately after killing, so ask your fishmonger to kill them for you, then cook them as soon as you can. Never buy a dead, uncooked crab or lobster, as you don’t know when it was killed and it may no longer be safe to eat.

Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil. Add the crab or lobster and simmer for 11 minutes per kg. Leave the crab to cool a little in the liquid. Transfer to a tray, place in the fridge and leave to cool.

1. Lay the cooked crab on its back, twist off the claws and legs, and set aside (Cristian Barnett)
2. Use the palm of your hand to push down on the crab. Pull the broken shell and insides away – it will come off in one piece. Pull away the dead man’s fingers (i.e. the feathery gills) found inside the shell and around the body (Cristian Barnett)
3. Scoop out the brown meat into a bowl (Cristian Barnett)
4. Use a large knife to cut the main body in half (Cristian Barnett)
5. Use a lobster pick or skewer to pick the white meat out of the cavities and put in a separate bowl (Cristian Barnett)
6. Crack the claws and legs using the back of a large knife or a kitchen mallt (Cristian Barnett)
7. Remove the meat from the claws. Finish by picking through the crab to check for any stray shells (Cristian Barnett)

Crab and melon salad

Serves 1

200g piece of watermelon
200g piece of cantaloupe melon
Olive oil, for cooking
A knob of butter
100g freshly picked cooked white crab meat
1 tsp chopped red chilli
1 tbsp chopped chives
Tabasco sauce, to taste
1 lime, halved
1 very ripe avocado
1 small fennel bulb, with fronds reserved
1 small wholemeal loaf, thinly sliced
1 preserved lemon, cut into small dice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Pan-fry both melon pieces with a little olive oil and the butter, then set aside to cool and cut into cubes. Mix the crab meat with the chilli, chives, and Tabasco and lime juice to taste.

Blitz the avocado with a few drops of Tabasco, lime juice and some salt and pepper, until smooth. Thinly slice the fennel and place in a bowl of ice cubes with a little water added. Toast the bread slices in the oven until crisp.

To serve, drain and dry the fennel slices and serve the crab with avocado purée and some preserved lemon, the melon cubes, fennel and toast. Lightly season and drizzle with a little olive oil.

The Skills: How to become an expert chef in your own kitchen by Monica Galetti (Quadrille, £20) Photography © Cristian Barnett

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