A favorite restaurant in San Francisco, Thanh Long, serves an amazing roasted crab seasoned with black pepper. The An family, who owns this restaurant and the more well-known Crustacean, carefully guard their family’s secret recipes, going so far as to have a secret kitchen within each of their restaurants’ kitchens. Since I have a more frequent need for this dish that can’t be filled by my once-a-year trip to San Francisco, I have created a version that comes close enough. This is a dish that you serve to people you are very comfortable with, as it is a messy, finger-lickin’ but oh-so-delicious experience.
4 small whole Dungeness crabs, live
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Bring a large pot of water to boil, then plunge in the crabs. Cook for 5 minutes and remove immediately from water.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place crabs in high-sided roasting pan. Drizzle oil over entire body and legs of crab. Sprinkle cracked pepper over legs. Cover with foil, sealing edges to pan. Roast for 20 minutes.
Over very low heat, melt butter, then add garlic and scallion. You want to infuse the butter with the garlic, but you do not want it to burn, so keep warm over very low heat.
Remove crabs from roasting pan. You may proceed to step 5 if you are going to let your guests dissemble their own crab. For a more civilized presentation, clean the crabs as follows. Working quickly, remove back from body cavity and clean to remove gills and fat. Set aside back shell.
Place crab on serving plate. Drizzle butter mixture over legs and body cavity. Dress with additional cracked black pepper if desired. Top with back shell and serve with nutcrackers, seafood forks, and lots of napkins.