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Fresh Cracked Crab with Chili Dipping Sauce

Cracking crab around a dinner table makes for a festive meal. Be sure to supply crab-cracking tools and bowls for the spent shells. Prepare plenty of the sauce, too. Adults and children alike will appreciate its spicy taste. If desired, set out small damp towels and lemon slices so guests can clean their hands after eating the crab.

Ingredients:

  • 4 to 6 cooked Dungeness crabs

For the chili dipping sauce:

  • 4 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Thai chili paste
  • 3 Tbs. minced shallots
  • 2 sweet pickles, minced
  • 3 Tbs. sweet pickle juice
  • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk

  • Lemon wedges for garnish

Directions:

Working with 1 crab at a time, break the claws and legs off and crack each segment. Put the body on its back and push down on each side to break it out of the shell. Remove the gills and viscera and rinse the body well. Break the body in half down its centerline. Cover and refrigerate the crab until ready to serve. Alternatively, many markets will crack and clean the crab for you.

To make the dipping sauce, in a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, chili paste, shallots, pickles, pickle juice and cayenne. Add the Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tsp. of the salt and 1/2 cup of the half-and-half and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed. If the sauce is too stiff, thin with a little more of the half-and-half. Transfer to 1 or 2 small serving bowls.

Arrange the crab on 1 or 2 platters and tuck the lemon wedges around the edge. Serve the bowl(s) on the platter(s) or alongside. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining, by Georgeanne Brennan (Oxmoor House, 2007).