Stone Crab Season Begins Today!

Stone crab lovers, get ready: The season officially begins today and runs through May 15, 2011.

The sweet and succulent claw meat of stone crabs is one of Florida's famous delicacies. The crustaceans live in waters off North Carolina to the Yucatan Peninsula, and 2.4 million claws were harvested commercially last year. Florida, particularly the Keys, is seen as the nation's stone crab capital, and restaurants throughout the state are bracing themselves for a good year.

These popular crabs have large and meaty claws that are closer in size to a two-pound Maine lobster than a blue crab. Fortunately, they are a renewable resource, and according to the Wildlife Conservation Commission, when the claws are removed correctly, the crab will regenerate new legal-size claws in three to four years.

There are many ways to enjoy this local specialty: straight up with drawn butter, a dipping sauce, or -- if you prefer to make a meal of it, do like Courtney Reeder, marketing director for Golden Rule Seafood -- some creamed spinach and potatoes. For her special recipes, check out Golden Rule's $35 three-course stone crab demo dinner at the market. Learn, eat, and eat some more.

In the meantime, keep it simple with a mustard dip like this one from Joe's Stone Crab:

1 Tbsp Colman's dry mustard
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp A.1. steak sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
salt to taste

Place mustard in a small bowl. Whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, A.1. sauce, cream, and pinch of salt. Mix until well blended and creamy. Chill the sauce, covered, until ready to serve.

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