I never really “got” stone crabs. They look nice, with their orange claws and ink-black tips, but eating them never appealed to me. The shells are hard, and unless cracked properly, are difficult to eat. Plus, there are those bits of shell that get in the way of everything. They can be dangerous, too. I’ve known people hospitalized after a bit of stone crab cartilage got caught in their throat.
Yet other people seem to enjoy them. A lot.
Stone crabs are a bit different from other species. You can really only eat the claws, as the bodies are pretty small. The claws are harvested from live animals, which sounds dreadful, but much like a lizard’s tail, they grow back. These particular animals can live to eight years old, so I would imagine they can regrow many new claws in that time frame, each time growing larger claws.
Stone crabs are harvested annually from October 15 through May 15, and the beginning of the season always brings a rush of excitement. If someone is trying to sell you stone crabs in July, run in the other direction.
The other night we went over to our friends’ house for dinner. I was already eager for the rack of lamb that I knew was on the menu, but I was not privy to the rest of the menu. We brought a bottle of Champagne, as well as a Jean-Luc Colombo Cornas, which we knew would pair perfectly with the lamb. Lucky for us, Champagne turns out to be a perfect pairing for stone crabs.
I finally get it. It may just be the bubbly talking, but I see what the fuss is about. The stone crabs were expertly cracked, making it an easy snack, and the mustard sauce was a delightful accompaniment. A squeeze of fresh-from-the-garden (not mine, obviously,) key lime made it all perfect.
The whole meal was stellar, but the stone crab starter was eye-opening. At least for me. As none of us will be in Key West for the Thanksgiving holiday, this was the official kick off to the holiday season. I can’t wait for the rest.