BLUE CRAB FEST! Make it a Family Tradition...the People and the Crabs Will Follow

Sep 3, 2015

Rick Guidelli and his family have have been feasting on Blue Crab off the waters of the Westport River since he got here 30 years ago.  Long, lazy summer crab dinners have evolved into a full blown crabbing competition and a crab fest that has grown into a huge event. The competition starts at 7 in the morning - and there are rules!

No crabs from Rhode Island; you can’t catch crabs prior to crabbing time; you can’t raid the pre-school, no kindergartners – you’ve gotta keep the crabs of an appropriate elder size so you’re not getting rid of next year's crop.

That’s Tommy Schlesinger Guidelli – he’s ushering in the next generation to manage crab fest that his father Rick started about 10 years ago.

Mixed teams are formed of family and friends – every possible age from little kids to adults. The teams have  names and some even have logos and hilarious t-shirts. How you catch the crab is up to the team.  I went on board a skiff captained by Uncle Chris Schlesinger  and it was a beautiful day on the Westport river but those beautiful crabs were mostly elusive

You got one ? You need a net? Yep, good size too…

You don’t need any fancy gear to catch crab… a stick with a string on it will do..and a net. ….

Ooohhhhh don’t count your crabs…that was an eater…

We only caught two – not very promising for dinner that night:

Eat before you go. I think there’s gonna be a lot of pressure on the hot dog station… It’s ironic, the best crabbing is in front of the house…

I learned that crab like dark shady spots with structures, and I don’t think they’re fussy about bait:

Back in the day around here in Westport, people used to use chicken necks for bait. Or whatever the cheapest part of the chicken was…Nowadays, you get wings or drumsticks, However there is also a trend of using hot dogs which a lot of people around here use. And we like to have a hot dog stand at our crab fest to honor the mighty hot dog.

That’s Susan Schlesinger - Rick’s wife – and she tends to be the arbiter in case of dispute or protest  when teams drift in for their counts. By the way, the price for cheating (like crabbing at night  – or even suspected cheating  is relentless ridicule.

When the party begins, I see about 60 or so people and plenty of food… just in case the catch is skimpy. But this time there are nearly 400 crabs – and it’s  an impressive sight !

Alright I’m gonna dump these:

Rick boils the crabs and then scatters them like a Frisbee shot down across an endlessly long table.

Let’s do it ! Crabs… Pickers !

OK, tell us what to do. Give us a lesson.

These kind of crabs have interior chambers – they have real small cartilage chambers, so you gotta open them, so you get the crabmeat out of the chambers. And it’s really delicious, but it’s not the easiest thing to do. It takes patience.

I’ll tell you one thing that happens that we’ve done every year, but this is the first year we changed it….we get a half dozen of us or so to pick all the crab and everybody eats it, and I make crabcakes... but it takes a really long time, you can see it takes a long time to pick crabs.

What do you put in your crab cakes, by the way?

Some  vegetables – like celery, peppers, onions… and a little bit, well a little bit of’s a secret actually…It’s really good, really worth it.  My favorite food in the whole world. There is nothing I would rather eat.

The scientific word for crab is Callinectese and it means, Beautiful Swimmer..the Blue Crab is Callinectes Sapidus making this a beautiful savory swimmer –

RS: Here, taste that …pretty awesome huh ?

I bear witness: each little piece is treasure -  sweet with briny memory.

It’s officially the famous Chesapeake Blue Crab -  but the good news is that there are plenty around Cape Cod for the catching and the feasting.

Oh, in case you were wondering who won….

Let’s be honest, the kids have to win by law

For WCAI’s  Local Food Report – I’m Viki Merrick of Atlantic Public Media

They actually won for real this year,  even I f they hadn’t they would have won, ‘cause the kids need to win.

More tips for crabbing on Cape Cod  right here on  WCAI's Fishing News with Steve Junker 

To see a video of the pugnacious Blue Crab - click  HERE

SECRET Crab Cakes from Steve Johnson of The Red Dory

Crab cakes (makes about 2 dozen)

1          medium white onion, peeled and diced

2          stalks celery, diced

1          red bell pepper, diced

1          poblano pepper, diced

1T        madras curry powder

2t         paprika

1t         chili powder

3lbs     fresh-picked blue crab meat, (or pasteurized Maine crab meat)

2C       mayonnaise

1/4C   fine toasted breadcrumbs

kosher salt for seasoning

In a large skillet using 2T canola or olive oil, sauté the vegetables all together until just tender (4-5 minutes), seasoning lightly with salt.  Remove from the skillet and refrigerate to cool down completely.

When the cooked vegetable mixture is completely cold, mix it with the crab meat in a large bowl, adding just enough breadcrumbs and mayo to hold it all together.  Be careful not to over-mix!  We like the crab cakes to be as chunky as possible.  Double-check the seasoning, form the mixture into 2-oz cakes and chill well until ready to use.  All of this prep can be done ahead of time, and in fact the cakes hold together better during final cooking if they are completely chilled before using.

Just before serving, brown the cakes gently on both sides in a sauté pan over medium heat, a few at a time, using butter or canola oil.  Be careful -- they burn easily!  Serve immediately with a small arugula salad and some lemon wedges