Bright Red Blues
Our cover story this issue is about the Louisiana blue crab. What amazes me is that, as far as I can tell, this is the first time that the native crab ever has earned cover status. It has deserved better.
Known in some parts of the state as the “Lake Pontchartrain Blue” and elsewhere as the “Louisiana Blue,” it is one of the great delicacies from the sea.
There was a day, especially before air-conditioning, when folks used the New Orleans Lakefront to catch breezes off the lake. A favorite pastime was crabbing from a stepped seawall. The steps led into the shallow edge of the lake, where the nets were placed. The rest was up to the crabs, who frequently complied.
A Louisiana Blue is a beautifully designed creature. From the front, eyes at the top of the shell stare back while claws wave as though hoping for errant shrimp. In its natural form, there is a blue hue – especially on the claws. Once plopped into the pot, the crab turns red, just as a crawfish does. Yet, it’s still blue to us.
For all of its attributes one of the blues’s most vulnerable points is its apparent fondness for chicken necks, the longtime traditional crabber’s bait. A neck would be pinned into a water-bound crab net. For the crabs it is suppertime, though, in this case, they might have done better fasting.
To be fair, it should be noted that there are other places that have blue crabs, mostly along the East coast and into Maryland where restaurants have nevertheless been known to import our local variety when the want quality. Also, we just know how to fix them better. From its experience with shrimp and crawfish, Louisiana already has its own seafood-boiling infrastructure. We know how to make the seafood boil ingredients better by stirring in the right seasonings; we’re not afraid to toss onions, garlic, potatoes and sausage into the mix. We’re not afraid of the fat. We know how to make a crab a celebration.
Don’t forget the sausage and potatoes from the pot.