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Scoop the crabs out of the hot oil with a wire
skimmer. Let them cool just until they can be handled,
then serve them right away with cold beer.
Visitors to Texas seem shocked that Sartin’s
famous barbecued crabs are deep-fried and not
prepared on a Texas barbecue smoker. Like the
“barbecued shrimp” of New Orleans and the
“barbecued oysters” of Tomales Bay in Northern
California, barbecued crabs aren’t slow smoked
over a wood fire.
Cleaning the live crabs is the most difficult part
of making barbecued crabs. First you have to leave
them in ice water for several minutes to stun them
enough so they stop fighting, then you have to rip the
shell off and clean out the exposed guts and lungs.
After experimenting with several home equivalent
recipes for this iconic seasoning, I came up with
my own blend. Only my version isn’t really like the
original. I omitted the cloves, because I don’t like
the aroma. And I substituted pimentón de la Vera
for the paprika, because I like the smoky flavor that
the Spanish paprika adds. I also added some tasty
but expensive spices like mace and cardamom that
you won’t find in the commercial stuff.
Makes 12 half crabs
Peanut oil, for deep-frying
6 live blue crabs
1 cup Homemade Zestful Seasoning
Makes about 1 cup
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon ground mustard
2 tablespoons smoked paprika (pimentón)
½ teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground bay leaves
About ½ cup sugar
Pour the oil to a depth of about 2 inches into a deep,
heavy pot or deep fryer and heat to 350°F.
While the oil is heating, immerse the crabs in
ice water for 5 to 10 minutes until they are limp. Put
1 crab, shell side up, on a flat surface. Hold down a
flipper on the bottom left side of the crab with the
thumb of your nondominant hand and rip off the
upper shell from left to right with your dominant
hand. Don’t be shy. It takes considerable force to get
the shell started. Clean out the exposed guts and gills
under running cold water, remove the reproductive
parts, then break the crab in half with 1 claw on each
half. This will expose the fleshy meat in the middle.
Repeat with the remaining crabs.
Put the seasoning in a small, shallow bowl.
Working in small batches, dip the crab halves, one
at a time, into the seasoning and then lower them
into the hot oil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the
crabmeat is opaque and cooked through. If the spice
mix begins to burn before the crabs are ready, lower
In a large measuring cup, combine the salt, celery
salt, mustard, paprika, mace, cayenne, black pepper,
red pepper flakes, cardamom, and bay and mix well.
(This should measure about ½ cup.) Add an amount
of sugar equal to the total amount of spices and mix
well. Store in a tightly capped jar or other airtight
container for up to 3 months.
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Copyright © 2012 by Robb Walsh
Copyright page tk
Photographs copyright © 2012 by Laurie Smith
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown
Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Ten Speed Press and the Ten Speed Press colophon are registered
trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Portions of this work were originally published in different form in the
following: “I Love Chicken Fried Steak,” “Texas Burger Binge,” and “We Want
Beer” in the Houston Press (or on houstonpress.com), a Village Voice Media
publication. “Juneteenth Jamboree” in Gourmet magazine (June 2007).
All photographs are by Laurie Smith except those attributed to other sources as
listed on page 283.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Walsh, Robb, 1952–
Texas eats : the new lone star heritage cookbook, with more
than 200 recipes / Robb Walsh.
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Cooking, American—Southwestern style. 2. Cooking—Texas. I. Title.
Printed in China
Design by Katy Brown
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