The icy waters off the Canadian Maritimes bring special bounty at this time of year, and right now, that takes the form of one of the biggest and best of all crab species: Chionoecetes opilio, or snow crab. These monsters, which can easily weigh between five and seven pounds each, are just beginning to show up on menus, David Pasternack of Esca tells us.
“We’re just getting it in now,” Pasternack says. “The meat is similar to what you would find in a lobster claw. It’s bone white, and that has a sweet taste and a certain shreddiness to it.” Esca’s method of cooking and serving the crabs couldn’t be more understated. The place buys them fresh, steams them up, and then after picking the meat, stuffs it back in the shell along with small pieces of fresh sugar snap peas. And what’s that on top? Could it be …? Yes! “We put smashed Ritz crackers on top. It adds a lot of richness! It’s not my recipe though; it’s an old New England thing.” The full crab, served straight up (“you don’t need a dip”) will be available at Esca tonight for $22. And it’s big enough for two.