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Talley Vineyards

Dungeness Crab with Pink Sauce

Dungeness Crab with Pink Sauce
Recipe Date:
December 21, 2016
Serving Size:
Cook Time:
Imperial (US)
Dungeness crab is one of the true winter delicacies of the West Coast. We celebrate Christmas Eve with this dish, which features a slight variation on my grandmother’s recipe for the pink sauce. She used to add 1 cup of mayonnaise to the whipping cream. My mother eliminated the mayonnaise, for a lighter version. For many years Master Sommelier Sara Floyd and I hosted a special crab lunch at Alioto’s, the famous seafood restaurant in San Francisco. Nunzio Alioto would prepare platefuls of Dungeness crab, and everyone who was invited to lunch had to bring what they believed to be the perfect wine to pair with the dish. The guests included some of the most highly regarded wine professionals in the Bay Area, and inevitably they brought crisp Chardonnay from France or off-dry Riesling from Germany.
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 6 ozs Heinz Chili Sauce (1/2 bottle)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 4 Dungeness crabs, 2-3 lbs each, live or cooked and cleaned

Whip cream into stiff peaks. Fold in chili sauce and lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to use.

If working with live crabs, choose vigorous, healthy specimens. Watch your fingers; the crabs can pinch you hard with their claws. Bring a large quantity of water to boil in the biggest pot you have. Add crabs and return water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes for 2- to 2½-pound crabs and 20 minutes for 3-pound crabs.

Remove crabs from water and rinse with cold water. When crabs are cool enough to handle, pull off and remove the triangular flap from the belly side. Turn belly side down, then remove top shell. Scoop the soft golden crab butter and white crab fat into another bowl (some people like to eat the butter). Break off the bony section, which is the mouth, from the front of the shell and discard.

On the body section, pull off and discard the reddish membrane that covers the back (it may have come off with the shell), as well as any loose pieces. Add any remaining crab butter to your butter bowl.  Remove and discard gills. Rinse with cold water.

Twist the legs and claws from the body. Using a nutcracker or mallet, crack the shell of each leg and claw section. Break or cut the body section into quarters. Chill thoroughly.

To serve:  Arrange cracked parts, including back shells, decoratively over ice on a large serving platter.  Serve family style with the pink sauce, lemon slices, and drawn butter. On the side add fresh sourdough bread and a green salad. 

What to drink:. Follow the lead of the guests at the crab lunch and open crisp Chardonnay or off-dry Riesling.