Stuffed Crabs – Cangrejos Rellenos

Crabs are found in all waters of the world’s oceans. They also live in fresh water or on land, or part water and part land especially in tropical regions. Male crabs tend to have larger claws than female crabs, and female crabs have broader rounder abdomens.

Most of the crab species found in North America (Atlantic and Pacific coasts) includes the “blue” crab or Callinectus sapidus; the “green crab” or Carcinus maenas Linn.; the “mud or toad” crab (Hyas araneus and H.coarctus), and the Alaskan King crab.

In Europe, the crab of commerce is the European spider crab or Maja squinado. It is found in the north east Atlantic and Mediterranean seas; while the “mud or mangrove crab” (Scylla serrata) is found in the estuaries and mangroves of Africa, Australia, and Asia. Mud crabs are prized for their “sweet meat” and the valued well above other seafood.

For this recipe, one can use any crab species; just make sure they’re alive when purchased.

Stuffed Crabs (Cangrejos Rellenos)
Yield: 4 Serving Portions

6 live crabs about 11/2 – 2 pounds each
2 large eggs, beaten
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large red tomato, washed, de-seeded, finely sliced and chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled, finely minced
2 teaspoons black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 bay leaves
1 celery stick, finely sliced
2 teaspoons salt

Direction: How to Cook the Crabs and Remove their Meat

Fill a large kettle with water (about 1/4 full), 1/2 cup chopped onions,sliced celery, 2 bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper to boil. When the mixture is boiling vigorously, add the crabs. Cook for about 20 -25 minutes or until they turn perfectly red.

When cooked, lift the crabs out of the kettle. Transfer them to a platter to cool. (The broth can be saved for veloute sauce or chowder).

When the crabs are cool enough to handle, pick out their meat. Turn the crab upside down, place your thumbs on each side of the gap and gently pry the top shell away from the body. If the viscera comes off with the shell, remove and discard it. Save the top shells.

Remove the inedible spongy gills. Remove the viscera from the middle of the crab.

Bend the body back and forth until it snaps in two. Remove the meat with your fingers or a small fork. Crack the claws with a nutcracker or a mallet. Remove the meat with a pick. Repeat this process with all the other crabs. Make sure there are no hard cartilages or bits of shell left in the meat. Put the meat aside.

Preparing the Crab Stuffing and Baking the Cangrejos Rellenos

In a frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over moderate heat. When warm, add the remaining onions and garlic. Cook until both are soft and translucent. Then add the tomatoes, remaining salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes; then add the flaked crab meat. Stir the mixture carefully so as not to break up the crab meat. Stuff the sauteed meat mixture in the crab shells.

In a dry clean bowl, break each egg and separate the whites from the yolks.

Beat the egg whites until it forms stiff peaks. Then add the egg yolks. Beat the mixture well.

Place a tablespoon or two of the “foamy” beaten eggs on top of the crab meat on each stuffed shell. Smooth the egg over the stuffing.

Bake the crab stuffed shells in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes at about 350 degrees or until the egg sets.

When done, remove from the oven. Serve immediately with steamed asparagus and Patate Algerienne. For dessert, try Brandied Apricots.