Peekytoe Crab

Peekytoe crab is an example of how effective marketing sells products that would otherwise languish. The common name is Atlantic rock crab or Cancer irroratus.

It has been a throwaway product for years, until an enterprising entrepreneur renamed the mud crab and publicized its unique name.

Now it is a popular feature amongst chefs in very high end restaurants in the United States and around the world. The locals also refer to peekytoe crab as Maine crab, mud   crab, and bay crab. The crab is hard-shelled and has nine teeth of sorts near each eye on the front edge of the shell. Here is some information about how to cook peekytoe crab.

The rock crab species is native to the eastern coast of North America. From Florida north to the shoreline of Labrador, they used to be considered a nuisance, especially to lobster fishermen. This crab species prefers very shallow water. They can sometimes be found inland from the low tide markers. Although they are common along the entire coastline, rock crabs gained their slang name and their popularity in the state of Maine. Unlike other crab species used in gourmet dishes, peekytoes are too delicate to be shipped live. Instead, they are processed locally and the meat is shipped iced to restaurants where much in demand dishes can be prepared using the crab meat.

Peekytoe Crab Size and More

Peekytoe CrabMale rock crabs are between 2 inches and 5.5 inches across the shell and weigh around 4.5 ounces on the average. Females are a little smaller in size. The crabs are scavengers and go where the food can be found, from ocean bottom to tide pools. Their diet is limited to the type of species that can survive in the same environment. In general, the diet consists of algae, various crustaceans, gastropods, mussels and polychaetes. These crabs have the ability to distinguish between two types of foods and typically pick the one with which they are most familiar.

The mud crab is very similar in color and size to another species, the Jonah crab. Peekytoes have larger teeth. The Jonah crab is more heavily fished, because it can grow to a much larger mass. The claw size on the Jonah crab is much larger, resulting in more crab meat produced per animal. Peekytoe crabs are native to a much wider range. In many locations they are more common than the Jonah species of crab. In part, this is due to the aggressive fishing practices for the larger crab.

The slang term which became the name by which the rock crab is known and marketed was derived from a Maine colloquialism meaning curved inward. This refers to the picked legs which described the appearance of the crab legs. The term "picked" is pronounced in two syllables to rhyme with "picket", which was the basis for the name. The Maine accent caused the moniker of peekytoe. On some menus, they are identified as picky toe crab.

It is only recently that the rock crab has become popular as a food item. When the name was changed in 1997 as part of a marketing campaign to catch the public's eye, the attraction of this crustacean skyrocketed. A Maine seafood packing house owner is credited with publicizing the name and making the reputation what it is today. As the reputation grew, so did the price of the product, until today it is a success story that is hard to top. Discriminating chefs choose this type of crab over other more readily available types to awe the patrons.
The story of peekytoe crab is an interesting and unusual one. Both the name and the popularity are linked in the mind of the public, although the crab meat itself is delicate and much prized. The meat is pale pink, sometimes speckled and has a fresh and light flavor that is usually enjoyed with minimal presentation extras. The flavor shines so it is unnecessary to cover it with rich sauces, or other ingredients that will overwhelm the sweet flavor. The preparation of the crab before shipment helps to preserve the flavor. Meticulous care is taken to ensure that all bits of shell are removed before shipment so that all you get is the fresh and delicious crab meat, ready to use.

Peekytoe crab is found in several excellent recipes by searching the Internet. Specialized cookbooks in a few locations refer specifically to peekytoe, but also state that you can substitute other types of crab for the delicate and hard to find peekytoe.

As a garnish for salad, a dish such as Peekytoe Crab Hearts of Palm salad developed by Emeril Lagasse, uses a dressing of olive oil, lemon, shallots, mustard, salt and pepper over sliced hearts of palm and watercress. The salad is garnished with peekytoe crab and radishes for color. Because nothing is cooked, the delicate flavor and color of the crab is allowed to star.

Sand crab is used in a much more complex dish called Peekytoe Crab, Fresh Asparagus and Roasted Tomato Terrine. To prepare this dish, Roma tomatoes and asparagus are oven roasted and cooled. Both are seasoned with olive oil, basil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. A mixture of tarragon, lemon juice, mustard and mayonnaise is seasoned with salt and pepper before folding in the crab meat. A terrine mold  with layers of tomatoes, asparagus, and crab mixture, repeated once. The entire mixtures is weighted down and refrigerated for up to two days to mold the terrine. To serve, slice the terrine into 1/2" pieces and drizzle with additional olive oil. Cleaned lettuce can be used for additional color and texture choices.

Some diners like to cook peekytoe crabs into johnnycakes or as crab rolls. No matter which way you prefer crab meat, it is difficult to feature a more pleasant dining experience than one of these high-end cuisine choices. A variety of recipes can be found by running a search query on the term peekytoe crabs. If you wish, you can have the cleaned, cooked and packaged crabs shipped directly to your home or restaurant establishment by purchasing from one of the websites that market the product.

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