Born and bred as I was in the pristine Piedmont of the Old North State, concessions to the superiority of my now beloved homestead seemed few and far between. I am, as my much-suffering life partner will tell you, a curmudgeon at heart, and any allowance of Miami’s superiority came only after months of wheedling and one-sided arguments. Contrarian nature aside, in the category of crustacean, it took only a toothsome taste of the appetizing yet august Florida Stone Crab to whisk away any notions of eminence on the part of its lesser Blue cousin. One liberal dip of an iced and cracked claw into a deviously simple sauce and I was immediately propelled into a state of euphoric exultation normally reserved for electrified hermits and flagellant ascetics. Lasting from Oct. 15 to May 15, the Florida Stone Crab (or Menippe Mercenaria) season will bring a flurry of activity to our coast, despite Irma’s recent blow, with an annual catch ranging up to 3.5 million crustaceans caught. Peculiar to our own homegrown brand of shellfish, only the Stone Crab’s claws are harvested, allowing the animal to regrow its delicious digits for another season and mimicking a natural trait of the crab’s natural defense mechanism. A truly tasteful tidbit regarding this most coveted of crustacean? Fans of free-range and naturally raised foods should have no fear when masticating crab mitts. All Stone Crabs are wild-caught in fisheries, and are free of the more fearsome malignancies associated with over-bred aquaculture. So, for 8 months at least, Miami, sit back, relax and enjoy the full (if fleeting) benefits of enjoying a meal as our ancestors enjoyed it for generations, tucked exactly within its season, with a side of melted butter.
Preparing Stone Crab in your own kitchen should provide little to no challenge, even for the culinarily illiterate. Simply bring a pot with salted water to a boil and remove from the heat. Place the claws inside the pot, and cook for precisely 5 minutes. Any more, and the meat will overcook. Remove, and set to ice for 45 minutes. That’ll give the flesh the ideal texture and provide a more malleable meat to dunk. The most fun part of Stone Crab claw cooking? Designing and perfecting your own signature sauce. From Joe’s melodious Mustard-Mayo medley to the more traditional cocktail or even melted butter, there’s no wrong way to season your shellfish!