Those highly anticipated, succulent claws... brought to shore fresh daily from the waters surrounding the Florida Keys, are NOW dripping in mustard dip and being quickly consumed by visitors and locals alike!
The stone crab season is finally upon us and the Keys' most popular delicacy on the menu once again in restaurants large and small... bars, cafes and raw bars as well as homes all over the island. Key West and the Florida Keys are crazy for stone crab claws…and the only decision is just how many small, medium or large claws can you eat in one sitting? The waters off the Florida Keys are Florida's top source of stone crab claws. About 40 percent of the state's average annual harvest of more than 3.1 million pounds comes from Keys waters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Still one of the Keys' tastiest and most unique gastronomic treats, stone crab claws are large and meaty -- closer in size to a 2-pound Maine lobster's claws than a blue crab's claws. Stone crab claws are usually cooked immediately after being brought to the dock, usually by placing the claws in boiling water then bringing the water back to a boil. Total cooking time is seven to eight minutes.
Running cold water over the cooked claws tends to keep the meat from sticking to the shell -- and Keys locals know the secret to cracking the claws open: forget those squeeze-together shell crackers and use the back of a spoon. Gently smack the shell and it will crack cleanly.
The traditional dip for stone crab claws is a mustard-based sauce made from a favorite mustard with mayonnaise or sour cream, and add-ins like parsley flakes, Worcestershire or A-1 Sauce, salt and pepper to taste. More adventurous chefs sauté the meat from stone crab claws in a hot dip made from orange marmalade, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, butter and curry powder.
As well as being flavorful to eat, stone crab claws are a renewable resource because the crabs can re-grow harvested claws. Both claws of a stone crab may be taken if each is of legal size, defined as a 2.75-inch propodus. The propodus is the larger, immovable part of the claw's pincer. The measurement is taken from the base of the joint between the "elbow" and propodus to the tip of the propodus.
Legal-size claws may be harvested from female stone crabs unless the crab is carrying eggs.
When its claws are removed correctly, the crab will regenerate legal-size claws in about three years, according to the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission. A very large crab can regenerate a legal-size claw in about one year. Ohhhhh BOY! Let's eat!