Making Crab Marinara turned out to be far more adventurous than I expected. Remember the lobster scene in Annie Hall?
My experience was not far from that.
I asked the fishmonger for 6 crabs and a pound of lump crabmeat, figuring I'd cook the whole crabs in the sauce to infuse flavor, then add lump crabmeat before serving. He complied, and home I went. Imagine my shock and horror when I discovered, upon starting to cook, that the crabs were still alive. Yup. I opened the bag to dump them in the sizzling garlic and was greeted with snapping pincers and a flurry of legs.
I composed myself, secured a pair of long-handled tongs, and began battle. I grabbed the first one, but as I attempted to transfer him into the pot, he fought ferociously and with such force that he separated his leg from his body. I retained hold of the disembodied leg in the tongs, and the rest of the crab fell to the floor and scurried under the table. I chased him, finally grasping him again, this time by the middle, and tossed him into the pot. The remaining crabs were less feisty, and I was more prepared. I managed the rest without incident, lost of limb (mine or the crabs') and resumed cooking.
In the end, this was a spectacular summer feast, and once I got past the fact that I had to kill my dinner, the preparation was quite simple.
Here's the recipe:
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP chopped garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cups marinara sauce--either make your own or purchase a high quality jarred version
6 live crabs
1 bunch fresh basil (about 10 leaves)
1 lb lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
In large pot, heat oil with garlic, salt, and pepper flakes. Add sauce, bring to simmer, and add crabs, then basil. Simmer, covered, over low heat 1-2 hrs until sauce takes on flavor of crabs. Remove crabs from sauce, add lump crabmeat, heat through and serve over al dente pasta.
NOTES: For the adventurous, you can leave the crabs in the sauce; some people enjoy eating the meat from the shells. (I am not one of those people--far too messy and labor intensive). I personally enjoy this with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, but many purists eschew cheese with fish. Your call!