Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to discover something delicious, local, and timely.
In September my husband and I headed out to the Westport, Washington, which is a small remote fishing town located on the Pacific Ocean. About three hours from Seattle, this town has long been a favorite misty destination for us. For many years we brought our kids out there and spent many a summer weekends camping at the state parks. This year, as empty nesters, we decided to head out to Westport after Labor Day. School was back in session and the weather looked to be great.
Of course, trolling the large marina which features an array of fishing and crabbing boats was on our list. Home to a large commercial fishing fleet, Westport has a decidedly salty air. The fog horn blows continuously in the distance. Seafood processing facilities dot the down town…peppered alongside bars, salt water taffy shops, and fish and chips style restaurants.
On this visit I decided to check out Merino’s Seafoods. Locally owned and operated for decades, this no frills shop features seafood and shellfish harvested in the wild from the North Pacific by local fishing vessels just miles off the Washington coast. Merino’s also does all the processing and canning in house only feet from the dock where the seafood is brought in. Local charter boats send their customers to Merino’s in order to get their catch of salmon or albacore tuna processed (filleted and vacuum packed) to their specification. Merino’s also has a full service seafood market and a great fish and chips window which is a new addition since the pandemic.
I had driven by Merino’s many times while in Westport but this year I ventured in. There was more buzz around the place. Sports fishermen were flocking there with the massive quantities of tuna they had caught that day. The fish and chips window had a steady stream of customers daily. In their compact and bustling retail market, I found a crowd of fishermen waiting to pay their processing bill. I also found a large wall featuring cans of local seafood-tuna, salmon, sturgeon, oysters, crab, razor clams and more. I have relied on canned seafood, mainly clams and salmon, in my kitchen for many years but with food inflation and security on everyone’s minds these days I decided to explore the other canned options. The canned Dungeness immediately caught my eye.
My husband and I often catch our own Dungeness crab in the Puget Sound but that’s an arduous task on many levels. I also sometimes splurge and buy the one pound plastic tubs of fresh Dungeness crab at Costco but even that has topped $50 a container in the last couple years. I soon reasoned the canned wild Dungeness crab could be a luxurious pantry item! (Most of the canned crab in the markets these days is imported from Asian and I simply never buy it.) This locally caught and processed crab seemed like the perfect solution!
When I got to the register to buy a can, the chatty gal at the counter assured me it was high quality, as she herself was “a shaker”, which is someone trained in the messy task of picking the crab. She told me she had even trained her daughter the skill cause not that many folks can do it these days! When I asked where it was processed she nodded towards the back of the building and said, “Here!” That was all I needed to know so I turned around and bought 8 more cans! It was a good investment!
Last week I finally got round to cracking a can and decided to craft a simple crab salad inspired by a recipe from a vintage 1970s Scandinavia cookbook. When I opened the can I was greeted with gorgeous crab segments and underneath found the picked flakier crab. Yes, this was a deliciously luxurious find. Tweaking the ingredients, I soon had a spectacularly fresh tasting Krabbsallad. A luxury indeed!
Scandinavian Crab Salad with Lemon, Celery and Dill
- large bowl
- sharp knife
- cutting board
- 1 can Merino's Wild Dungeness Crab
- 1 Lemon, juiced
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon finely minced onion
- 2 Tablespoons light mayonnaise
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
- salt and pepper to taste
- Open the can of Dungeness crab, draining the juice from the can, if desired. Put the crab in a large bowl and toss well to combine and break up the meats. Pick out any shell or cartilage if found.
- Add the lemon juice, celery, onion, mayonnaise, fresh dill and salt and pepper to taste.
- Combine the crab with the ingredients, tossing gently. Transfer crab salad to a glass jar and chill. . Serve over fresh baby lettuce, sliced tomato or dollop it into a halved and pitted ripe avocado.
- Serves 2 for lunch.