National Fisherman

At Sea Diary

Matt MarinkovichMatt Marinkovich’s weekly At Sea Diary entry is a popular feature of the National Fisherman Web site, and now you can post your own reflections on Matt’s experiences fishing in the Pacific Northwest and North Pacific.

March 30-31, 2006 — This year, I dined on one of the most fabulous meals I have indulged in in years. It was a king crab — two to be exact. They were brown king crab, caught in Chatham Sound by one of the local Sitka fishermen. He was selling them off his boat at the loading dock in the big boat harbor on the north side of town.

I picked them out myself. Last year, he sold me one good-sized one for $5 per pound — it was missing a leg. The total was about $60, and it made a fine meal, but there just wasn't quite enough to stuff ourselves, to the point that we felt truly satisfied.

So this year I pointed out the biggest one I saw crawling around in their live tank/tote on deck. He was a dandy, weighing in at 11 pounds. But just to be sure I had enough to finish us all off, I picked out another smaller one. The total was just over 20 pounds of living, crawling king crab, and the bill came to $120.

We eat good on the Discovery, there is no doubt about it. I am the cook, and I like being the cook because I like to eat my own cooking, and I like to cook good food. I don't bother with top sirloin steaks or rump roast. We start out every season with a round of fillet mignon as our first meal, then we step it down a notch for the rest of the season with rib-eye steak and prime rib.

I counter these more spendy menu items by eating as much fish as possible, and by avoiding any processed foods; I'd rather eat my own lasagna than Costco's. In the end we spend only about $15 per day per man on groceries, which is really a miserly rate.

So this spendy little taste treat was welcome aboard without so much as a bat of an eye. I immediately put a kettle of salty seawater on the stove, which took its time building to a boil. I had to cook the buggars in two batches because, even though I was using the biggest pan we had on the boat, I could barely fit one crab at a time in the pot.
I butchered them out in the bait house by centering their bodies over the 1/8-inch aluminum plate that Mike built the baiting benches out of, then clubbed them with one of the rocks we snap onto the groundline for weight. Then I ripped the leg-and-shoulder sections free of the shell and scraped off the gills with a butcher knife.

After the water had reached the boiling point on the oil stove, I moved it to the electric Jenn-Air cooktop to speed up the cooking procedure without turning the galley into a kiln by cranking up the stove. I cooked the crab for 15 minutes after the water began to boil after I added the crab, which was just over 20 minutes total in the pot. I served the crab with boiled potatoes, a green salad, warmed French bread and melted butter.

I slipped up to the wheelhouse while the boys feasted on the first wave of crab, then finished them off with the second panload. Shortly after, Roald came up to the wheelhouse to relieve me, rubbing his belly.

"Oh hey, that was GOOOOOOOD!" He said, as he has said a thousand times before, but this time it sounded like he really meant it.

I went down and sat in Roald's seat at the head of the table with the remains of three-quarters of a freshly cooked king crab right in front of me. I saw that one half of the granddaddy was there untouched, so I started in on him, breaking his shoulder apart and selecting the biggest leg on the biggest crab I had found crawling in the tote a few hours earlier.

I peeled away the shell on the shoulder and exposed a shock of steaming crab meat about the size of a lobster tail. I ate it straight — without butter or anything — so I could taste it naked. It had a rich, sweet, salty taste with its own buttery flavor bursting through. The taste filled my mouth and caused an involuntary mmmmmmmmmmmmm as I chowed my first bite.

I used to fish these things in the Bering Sea, and this bite tasted every bit as good as any other king crab I had eaten all those years before. The best part was I didn't have to spend two months in the Bering Sea ice pack chasing after the thing. My share of the $120 this added to the board bill was well worth the price.

The second bite was just as astounding, and the third was even more tasty since I dipped it in butter and ate it with the warm bread. A couple bites later I cracked open the main leg section, which slid out of the tube of shell intact.

There I held in my hand an 8-inch-long chunk of crab leg, about as thick as a thin cucumber. I dipped that thing in the butter like one would a piece of celery into the ranch dressing at a wedding party, and brought it dripping to my mouth. I chomped an oversized bite of this seafood sensation, and my God, it was delicious.

This orgasmic eating experience kept up until I could hardly move. You should have seen how full the claw was when cracked it open. And there was still enough left over for an outstanding seafood cioppino the next day.

If you ever get the chance to dine on a freshly cooked brown or red king crab, spare no expense; pay the price and enjoy one of the most memorable meals of your life.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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