SEASIDE, Ore. — Dean Ellsworth says his 44-foot fishing boat, the Nola K, is his home away from home at this time of year. His three-man crew will toss out and pull up nearly a thousand 80-pound crab traps during the traditional opening of the December Dungeness crab fishing season.
On the dock, fisherman Steve Fick says it’s the first time in seven years that the season has not been delayed by skinny crabs or high levels of domoic acid, and fishermen couldn’t be more pleased.
“Feel that crab, see how it feels heavy? It’s in prime condition right now – best you’ll see of the crab.”
Dungeness crab is Oregon’s most valuable fishery. Last year, fishermen landed over 12 million pounds of crab worth more than $80 million to coastal communities.
Steve Fick and his fishing friends, Steve Williams and Terry Hartil, love to share the good news about Dungeness crab: it’s a lo-cal way to enjoy an Oregon seafood treasure. The trio recently offered up three crab recipes – each with a low-calorie approach.
Recipe #1 is an easy-to-fix crab dip!
Combine ½ cup each of low-fat mayo, low-fat sour cream and cup yogurt. Steve said he will cut the calories by 70% using this low-fat approach.
“It is a real simple dip emphasizing low calories so you can eat this without feeling bad about it,” added Fick.
He seasoned the dip with a tablespoon each of parsley, green onions, 1 teaspoon each of ground pepper and paprika, plus a tablespoon of dry ranch dressing and then he folded in two cups of cracked Dungeness crab.
He placed the bowl of crab dip on a platter and surrounded it with varied vegetables. He added cracked crab legs across the top of the dip to provide a fine finishing touch.
“It’s a real simple dip that is low in calories. You can eat this without feeling bad about it.” Now, let’s put a little more crab in here!”
Crab Recipe #2 is called Salmon Wrapped Crab. Fick cut thin strips from a salmon fillet—each strip was approximately 6 to 7 inches long and 2 inches wide. The thin-cut salmon strips provided a base for a tablespoon of crab mix.
For the mix, Steve blended 1 cup of low-fat mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons each of finely chopped yellow peppers and finely chopped onion, plus 1 cup of crab meat. He rolled up the salmon strip around the crab mix and poked a toothpick through the salmon to hold it all together.
The Salmon Wrapped Crab went under the oven broiler for two-and-a-half minutes – then he added a pinch of parmesan cheese atop each wrap and placed the tray back under the broiler for another two minutes. “The key," he cautioned, “is not to cook the fish too long or it will dry out,” added Fick.
Crab Recipe #3 is a Dungeness crab feast that found Williams and Hartil outdoors on a rainy winter’s night where Williams grilled an assortment of vegetables on a Weber barbecue. This would serve as a side dish for the crab feast and included sliced yellow squash, green zucchini, sliced peppers, asparagus spears and red onions.
(Williams loves to grill oysters as a fine complement to the crab. He placed whole oysters in the shell atop the grill and closed the lid until the oysters started to pop open (about 10 minutes) and he then dabbed a small amount of butter and cooked bacon inside each oyster.)
Hartil placed cooked crab sections atop the Weber grill: “You’re not trying to cook it again – it’s already been cooked. All you want to do is warm it back up, and you can add smoky flavor to it with wood chips. After two to three minutes, it comes out warm and delicious.”
“You might not want to do this on a night when it’s raining, but certainly in the summertime and almost everyone enjoys a fresh ear of bbq’d corn.”
“Dungeness crab meals can be real social events,” said Fick. “Really a nice way of bringing people together—everyone at the table picking at their food and socializing.” And the best part is that the recipes are so easy, anyone can try and something to consider while Dungeness crab is in season. Be sure to follow my Oregon adventures via the new Grant’s Getaways Podcast:
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You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:
- "Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill
- "Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill
- “Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
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- “Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age.
“Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures” will be published in the fall of 2022.