Roche Harbor, Dungeness Crab Paradise

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Dungeness crab tastes sweeter at Leigh and Judy Ross’ summer home in Roche Harbor, an idyllic spot on San Juan Island off the Washington State coast. It sits along the Haro Strait close to the Canada–United States border.

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During our stay last summer, those chilly clear-blue waters provided us with a generous harvest of wiggling crabs – Dungeness beauties with pink, succulent flesh.

Just-trapped and cleaned, they were ready for our boiled crab feast.

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Leigh Ross is no stranger to shellfish cookery. Long ago he owned and operated a seafood shack in Brandon, Vermont. Clams and fries were the specialty at his place, but an entree of boiled crab was also on the menu.

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He is adamant about what he considers the proper way to clean crabs, contending that his technique makes the crab meat tastier, edged with a lovely sweetness – both in taste and aroma. Working on the dock next to his mooring, he concentrates on one crab at a time, first stabbing with a sharp pointed knife for a quick kill (yes, this prevents those frisky claws from wrecking havoc).  Next he cleverly uses the cleat on the dock for leverage to pull off the carapace, in the end yielding two chest-leg halves. Those halves are washed with a power hose to make them clean as a whistle.

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(Note: Julia Child used a lot of words explaining how to remove a crab’s carapace by hand in “Mastering The Art of French Cooking Volume Two.” Guess she didn’t have any dock cleats.)

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Have a look at the video; Leigh is cooking the crab in a big pot set atop the barbecue on the balcony (yes, the view is spectacular – lanky pine trees frame bobbing boats moored in the azure waters). The boiling water used to cook the crabs is augmented with Old Bay seasoning and sea salt.

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“Covered and cooked for fifteen minutes does the trick,” Leigh explained to pal Marcia Kay Radelet. 

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Judy cooked the sides and made a delicious blueberry pie with local berries for dessert. Mmmmm.

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