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Cracked and Cleaned Crab from Cook's in Menlo Park

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Last night for a birthday and winter solstice champagne and crab celebration for 50+ people, our hostess ordered 35 cleaned and cracked crabs from Cook's Seafood in Menlo Park. I had been curious how she was going to stage this for a group of this size, and it turned out remarkably well.

At the entrance way, a table of champagne flutes was at hand. The musicians were on one end of the living room along with the stations for the champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The table in the dining room was set with a red checkered table cloth and 8 chairs. A big tray of chilled cracked crab, hunks of sourdough bread, cut lemons, and most importantly, 8 butter warmers, were laid out for us to take our turn sitting down and gorging on crab. We had paper plates, crackers, cocktail forks, stacks of napkins, and aluminum trays to discard our shells. It moved quite smoothly. It was amusing how little conversation there was at the table, as those seated were intently focused on their crab.

The crabs were good size, judging from the size of the claws and legs, likely in the 2+ lb. range. They tasted like they'd been cooked in lightly salted water. The body sections were at the right doneness for me, but I did find the legs a tad overcooked. I also ran across three legs that were ammoniated. But overall, I thought this was high quality crab. Whatever was uneaten was destined for the cioppino pot today.

Of the champagnes quaffed, the Pommery (aged at home for 2 years) had a lovely biscuity tone but was a bit too sweet to enjoy with the crab. Jean Milan was as fine as ever. Veuve Cliquot was its usual reliable self. My favorite with the crab was Tarlant "zero". Dervin was lean and mean with acidity that took the layer off the tongue. When our hostess grabbed the bottle to dump it out, we stopped her and asked if she had any creme de cassis. Instead, we made some lovely kir royale nightcaps with it to end a great evening.

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  1. ammoniated crab legs? Stay away from Cook's!!! Maybe the had just a couple long dead ones in the freezer that they want to get rid of and hoping people won't notice!

    6 Replies
    1. re: twinpeaks

      No, the legs in question weren't frozen, as they didn't have that cottony texture of previously frozen crab meat. I wouldn't say to stay away from Cook's. This was much better cooked, cleaned and cracked crab than I've been served from Whole Foods, Sonoma Market, and most any other source, that seems to be the norm that others eat happily. It always suprises me when people gobble up the stuff. I don't buy it myself and rarely have more than a taste because of the lack of freshly cooked taste and texture, but I found this to be of higher quality so I posted it here. If you wanted a pre-cooked crab, this is better than most of what you'll find out there.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Smell of ammonia is a key indicator that the crab has past its prime. There is no excuse for selling non-fresh crabs during the crab season, unless, of course, disclosed as "deteriorating crab" or "dead for years." Hence, Cook's is off my list. Many thanks for the knowledge transfer and glad the party was a success.

        As a side note, I recently had, also at a party, cooked, cleaned and cracked crabs from a Santa Clara Safeway. Surprisingly fresh and I nearly devoured all 15 crabs by myself! I almost never do pre-cooked crabs. Was it just pure luck or was it a Safeway thing during the crab season?

        1. re: twinpeaks

          No Safeway Has Decent Cooked Crab in season.I'm in Fremont in NOR CAL Other than that i Only go to Ranch 99 or Lyons to get Live Crab you boil yourself. usually $3.99-4.99 a pound I take it home Acuatually my friends house and boil it up with kosher salt, lemons and zatarains liquid shrimp/crab boil boil about 30 minutes then YUM YUM!

          1. re: Skunk2Racer

            I think what you're saying is that it was a fluke that crabs I had from Safeway was fresh. I do know, a fluke or not, the ones I had were extradinarily fresh - no smell of ammonia and excellent texture! Any other similiar experiences from Safeway?

            1. re: twinpeaks

              We've had good luck w/Safeway crabs - Marin County.

          2. re: twinpeaks

            We had four cooked and cracked crabs from Cook's on Christmas Eve--they were quite fresh, not ammoniated. The only reason I would stay away from Cooks would be the cost--$7 or $8 per pound!

      2. How does one identify an ammoniated crab leg?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Maya

          Smell it!