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Crab: A Bay Area holiday tradition
November 22, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Turkey is normally the shining star of Thanksgiving dinner but Bay Area locals often have another holiday tradition — crab.

While last year a price dispute kept crab from being part of local Thanksgiving dinners, the crustacean is making a comeback this year. And it’s not just for Thanksgiving. Many families enjoy crab through Christmas.

"Really it’s something very traditional to San Francisco,” and the Bay Area in general, said fisherman Pietro Parravano.

But not everyone knows where to get crab or how to prepare and serve it. Options luckily abound. Locally, there’s the option of heading to the coast, chatting with fishermen like Parravano and getting a fresh catch. There are also a number of local stores happy to provide tips and their own favorite ways to enjoy the meat.

Kathleen Taggart, director of the Home Department and Cooking School at Draeger’s, likes to keep it simple.

She and her husband enjoy eating crab cold. They take advantage of the store’s offer to crack the crabs for her. Then, a loaf of French bread with lots of butter and a bottle of bubbly make for a perfect evening.

"It’s nirvana for me,” she said.

Patience Thien, Draeger’s Cooking School program coordinator, also likes to keep it simple but loves adding butter and garlic.

At Draeger’s, like most local markets, sells the crab already cooked, Taggart pointed out. So, those who don’t have experience can easily give it a go. While Taggart prefers the crab meat cold, Abigail Crayne, Draeger’s Cooking School managing editor and director of private events, likes to warm it up a bit. She’ll also put together some melted butter or some garlic oil to go along with the meal.

The simplest recipe is normally what people stick to, she said. For Crayne’s family, crab plays a bigger role in celebrating Christmas. It’s in December that they use the meat to recreate Chinese favorites like pot stickers.

Regardless of where one purchases crab, the ladies encouraged shoppers to ask questions. Those handling the seafood are happy to offer suggestions.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

Recipe info box:

The Best Crab Cakes

Serves 4-6


4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely diced

1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, finely diced

1 pound crab meat

1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced (or to taste)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg, beaten

1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil


In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat and sauté bell peppers until softened. Cool peppers.

In a bowl, stir together peppers, crab, parsley, jalapeno pepper, mayonnaise and citrus juice. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add beaten egg and 1/4 cup bread crumbs; mix until combined and chill 20 minutes.

With a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, scoop crab mixture into portions and pat into a thick cake. Spread remaining bread crumbs on a sheet of parchment paper and gently press each crab cake into the breadcrumbs, turning, to coat evenly. Chill crab cakes, loosely covered for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and olive oil until hot but not smoking and sauté crab cakes until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn crab cakes carefully and brown on the other sides. Transfer sautéed crab cakes to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake crab cakes for 6 to 10 minutes until heated through.

Source: Draeger’s

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