Return to the crab feast

In a posting on the 15th I recalled an odd experience with tv commercials: back in July a commercial went by for a fast-food or casual-dining restaurant (possibly Red Lobster, though I didn’t catch the name) advertising specials on crab, a feast of snow crab and king crab. The commercial — which was indeed for Red Lobster’s 2015 Crabfest — then mysteriously disappeared from the channels I watch, only to reappear yesterday, just as (it seems) the special offer is about to end.

But the commercial provided an opening for me to talk about kinds of crab (and “crab”). And now I’ll say a bit more.

From that earlier posting:

I wondered about the crab in [the names snow crab and king crab], suspecting that we might be in a world where the referent of one or both of these names is unclear — where there are several distinct creatures called snow crab, say — and maybe also in a world where biologists claim that some things called crabs (or X crabs, for some specific X) are not in fact crabs at all, or aren’t “true crabs”.

My suspicious were justified, on both counts: various species are sold under the name snow crab; and snow crabs are “true crabs”, while king crabs are not.

Briefly, on Red Lobster, from Wikipedia:

Red Lobster is an American casual dining restaurant chain [specializing in seafood] that is headquartered in Orlando, Florida. The company has operations in Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Japan, in addition to the United States. As of February 24, 2013, there were 705 Red Lobster locations worldwide [3 in the Bay Area].

Now to Red Lobster’s event. From the BRAND Eating site, “Crabfest is Back at Red Lobster”:

Red Lobster’s annual Crabfest is back starting this month [on 7/21] and features the restaurant chain’s biggest variety of crab dishes for the year.

(#1)

New on the menu are the following dishes [with names of types of crab boldfaced]:

Crab Lover’s Dream – Wild-caught North American snow crab legs and split king crab legs with crab linguini Alfredo.

Wild-Caught Snow Crab & Seafood Bake – North American wild-caught snow crab legs with shrimp, sea scallops, mussels, tomatoes, corn, and potatoes in a garlic and white wine broth.

Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes & Crab-Topped Salmon – Lump crab cakes and wood-grilled Atlantic salmon with savory crab topping.

Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Dinner – Three lump crab cakes with Meyer lemon aioli.

Wild-Caught Alaska Bairdi Crab Legs Dinner – Wild-caught Alaska Bairdi crab legs with roasted corn and baby gold potatoes.

Crabfest Ultimate Surf & Turf – Lump crab cakes and a peppercorn-seasoned sirloin with savory crab topping.

Snow crab (most often Chionoecetes opilio) and king crab (notably, Paralithodes camtschaticus, the red king crab) I covered in the earlier posting, but now we have Bairdi crab. From Wikipedia:

Chionoecetes bairdi is a species of crab known alternatively as bairdi crab and tanner crab. C. bairdi is closely related to Chionoecetes opilio, and it can be difficult to distinguish C. opilio from C. bairdi. Both species are found in the Bering Sea and are sold commercially under the name “Snow crab”. Tanner crabs have suffered from overfishing and as a result strict controls have been placed on tanner crab fisheries.

I wonder how scrupulous Red Lobster is about these species distinctions. But now you’re wondering about Lump Crab and Jumbo Lump Crab. These are not species distinctions, but grade distinctions; think grades of eggs, butter, or olives. From Wikipedia:

For the U.S. market the meat of crabs comes in different grades, depending on which part of the crab’s body it comes from and the overall size of the crab the meat is taken from.

Colossal: Colossal crab meat, also called Mega Jumbo Lump, is the largest whole unbroken pieces available from the blue crab and blue swimming crab. The colossal meat is taken from the two largest muscles connected to the back swimming legs of the crab. The lumps, or pieces, in the Colossal grade are bigger than those in the Jumbo Lump.

Jumbo lump: The jumbo lump grade crab meat comes from larger crabs, is the meat from the two large muscles connected to the swimming legs. Contrary to smaller portions of crab meat, it can be used whole. It has a brilliant white color.

Lump: The Lump grade of crab meat is composed of broken pieces of Jumbo Lump, which are not included in the Jumbo Lump grade pack, and other flake pieces. This grade of crab meat is ideal for crab cakes and it is commonly used by manufacturers. [In better restaurants, the species of crab used for crab cakes depends on what is preferred locally: blue crabs in Maryland, Dungeness crabs in northern California and the Pacific Northwest.]

Back fin: The back fin portion consists of flakes of white meat, coming both from the special meat and the jumbo lump. Back fin is a popular crab meat for Chesapeake Bay, Maryland style crab cakes

Special: The “special meat” is shreds and small flakes of white meat from the body cavity of the crab. It is generally used for all dishes in which white crab meat is used.

Claw: Claw meat is the dark pink meat that comes from the swimming fins and claws of the crab. It has a stronger taste, and is less expensive than the white color meat grades. It is often used in soups, where the strong taste comes through.

Claw fingers: The Claw Fingers, also called Cocktail Fingers, are the tips of the pinchers, usually served whole, with the dark pink meat still in it. They are commonly used as garnish or hors d’œuvre.

Some lump crab:

(#2)

The Wikipedia article introduces two more species of crabs: blue crabs and blue swimmer/swimming crabs. The first of these is very familiar to me, since I grew up on the East Coast of the U.S. From Wikipedia on the first:

Callinectes sapidus (from the Greek calli– = “beautiful”, nectes = “swimmer”, and Latin sapidus = “savory”), the blue crab, Atlantic blue crab, or regionally as the Chesapeake blue crab, is a species of crab native to the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and introduced internationally.

C. sapidus is of significant culinary and economic importance in the United States, particularly in Louisiana, the Chesapeake Bay, and New Jersey. It is the Maryland state crustacean and is the state’s largest commercial fishery.

A blue crab looking very blue (they turn red when cooked):

(#3)

And from Wikipedia on the second:

Portunus pelagicus, also known as the flower crab, blue crab, blue swimmer crab, blue manna crab or sand crab … is a large crab found in the intertidal estuaries of the Indian and West Pacific Oceans, and as a Lessepsian migrant [via the Suez Canal] in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The name “flower crab” is used in east Asian countries while the latter names are used in Australia. The crabs are widely distributed in eastern Africa, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, Persian Gulf and New Zealand.

I am dubious that Red Lobster uses either blue crabs or blue swimmer crabs for their lump crab cakes. It looks like it would be much cheaper to use flaked or shredded snow crab or king crab meat meat. But I could be wrong.

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