What Is Peekytoe Crab and Should a Maine Lobster Lover Opt for It?

 Food and Dining, travel  Comments Off on What Is Peekytoe Crab and Should a Maine Lobster Lover Opt for It?
Jun 202012

We had just had our first lobster roll of the season at Down East Lobster Pound in Trenton, Maine, and were feeling pretty good about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend on Mount Desert Island and a few days off from the NYC rat race.

At Down East– where you can find the perfect lobster roll (stuffed big, no filler, buttery toasted roll) – the bins that hold the lobster were also piled high with Maine crab.  “Why not try it?” I thought.  For $1.49 pound, we got six big ones to take home.

To cook them, we took our lobster pot across the street to Somes Harbor on Mount Desert Island, filled it up at the dock, and threw in some seaweed – that’s the way my Dad cooks lobster.  We boiled the crabs for 12 minutes and then plunged them into cold water to stop the cooking.

crab in ice water

That helps release the crabmeat from the shell, we were told.   “Otherwise, you’ll be swearin’” was the advice.

We served the crab with fresh asparagus – a wonderful spring meal.  After all, on Memorial Day in Maine the lilacs are still in bloom.

maine peekytoe crab

Was there enough crabmeat for a meal?  Yes, and more.  Although the effort-to-meat ratio was higher than with lobster, the claws and legs produced sweet, delicate meat.

But I wondered why this crustacean is so under-rated in Maine?

I asked around.  It seems that the lobster men consider crabs a nuisance because they eat the bait from the lobster traps.  They pull up the crabs coincidentally when they’re hauling their lobster.  They might give them to their wives to pick and market the crabmeat or sell the whole crabs to lobster pounds if they get a decent price.  But because of crabs’ relatively low value, they’re regarded as a throwaway by-product.

This seems generally to have been the story until 1997 when a seafood wholesaler in Portland started referring to Maine rock crabs (Cancer irroratus) as “Peekytoe,” the local slang term.  That’s because the crab leg has a sharp point  or “picked toe” — “picked” pronounced as if it had two syllables (rhyming with picket).

Suddenly the newly christened Peekytoe crab was being featured in recipes by Martha Stewart and Daniel Boulud and in NYC restaurant notes with $$$$ next to the listing.

New York chefs started paying $12 to $14 a pound for something that has long been routinely discarded.

A final note.  Peekytoe crabs are different from blue crabs, which are common from Massachusetts to Texas and particularly prized from Chesapeake Bay, North Carolina and Louisiana fisheries during their “soft shell” phase.

I used to go crabbing with my Dad on Nantucket.  We’d coax the blue crabs over to our nets with some chicken wings on a string, then scoop them up.  They’re fast, which makes crabbing a lot of fun.

In Maine they don’t have blue crabs, but every once in a while you see something else blue.

blue lobster



A Maine Food Adventure – In Search of Clams 

What Is A Lobster Pound?  Why Have I Only Heard This Term around Acadia National Park? 

When the Best Maine Lobster Roll Isn’t a Roll at All

 travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on When the Best Maine Lobster Roll Isn’t a Roll at All
Jul 092011

Locals can get a little cranky when you ask, “What’s the best lobster pound?” 

“A lobster is a lobster is a lobster.” 

“It takes someone with a rare talent to screw up a boiled or steamed lobster.” 

Whether or not that’s true about boiled lobster (overcooking does cause toughness), it’s certainly not the case with lobster rolls.  Granted, in Maine they all usually taste great.  However, in side-by-side comparisons, some lobster rolls do taste better than others.  Preparation of the lobster salad varies.  Freshness varies.  And some purveyors, most notably the Lobster Claw in Bar Harbor, will make you a lobster roll that features fresh, unadulterated lobster meat.  Naked, as they say.

Among the lobster pounds near Acadia National Park perhaps the biggest difference in any lobster roll is the very lack of the roll itself at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound.  At this esteemed establishment, which has had four generations of family members working there, lobster salad is served on a dense white bread that tastes like what my mother used to bake at home.  Says Josette Pettegrow, whose parents started the business in 1956, “It’s the old-fashioned way.  It’s how my mother served lobster salad, and my grandmother before.” 

That’s the way Nancy Jenkins sees it.  Writing in the New York Times, she noted, “The lobster roll is a tradition, though not a very old one. My 75-year-old father, who has lived all his life in Maine, says he doesn’t remember eating a lobster roll until sometime after World War II.” 

So, when you visit Acadia National Park, consider trying a lobster salad sandwich at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound.  It’s located on Route 3 just as you approach the bridge to cross over to Mount Desert Island.  You’ll see the sign and smell the smoke of the wood-fired cookers boiling the lobsters. 

For more dining options during your trip to Acadia National Park, check out the restaurant reviews at OUR ACADIA.  You’ll get tips on where to find the best crab bisque, great choices for a special evening out, and places to eat with kids.