Food and Spirits

Beneficial Weather Conditions Bring Abundant Florida Blue Crab Harvest

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Blue-CrabTALLAHASSEE - Top producers in Florida expect this to be an above-average year for blue crab, thanks to plentiful rainfall.

 “Our fishermen tell us that blue crabs are running larger than normal and are in excellent supply,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said. “Blue crab populations tend to dip during drought years, but they rebound when the rains return. Ample rainfall this spring and summer means there's been plenty of fresh water flowing into our bays and estuaries, creating ideal conditions for this prized species.”

Florida blue crabs are readily available for consumers to enjoy. According to reports, producers are bringing in large catches daily, and seafood markets and restaurants across the state are well stocked.

“This is a good year for blue crabs, and now is the best time to enjoy them,” Bronson said. “Harvest peaks annually in summer and fall.”

Blue crabs are commercially harvested with baited traps along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in bays, sounds, channels, and river mouths. The bulk of the harvest comes from Wakulla, Citrus, and Duval counties. With an annual dockside value of around $6 million, blue crab is one of Florida's top 10 seafood products. It ranks fourth in terms of pounds harvested.

The blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) has a dark green or olive green hard shell and five pairs of bright blue legs. The undersides of the body and legs are white. Only the first pair of legs is equipped with pincers or claws. Male and female claws are various shades of blue on the top, but the tips of the female's claws are bright red.

Blue crab is harvested and eaten in two stages of its lifecycle, when the exoskeleton is hard and also when it's soft. The soft-shell blue crab is a hard-shell crab that has shed its shell by molting. “Peeler” crabs (crabs in the process of molting) are held in water-filled tanks and watched closely until they form their soft shells and shed their hard ones. Then they are plucked out of the tanks and rushed to market. Soft-shell crabs are considered a delicacy and can be eaten shell and all.

Hard-shell crabs are sold live or steamed to restaurants and seafood markets. They are also sold to picking houses, where the delicate meat is extracted from the shell, usually by hand. Picked crab meat is available fresh or pasteurized.

Live blue crabs should have some leg movement when purchased. Store them in a moist environment at 50 degrees Fahrenheit in a bag, cardboard box, or other breathable container. Do not store them directly on ice. Fresh blue crab meat should be stored on ice in the coldest part of the refrigerator and used within seven to 10 days. Pasteurized blue crab meat in unopened containers can be stored up to six months in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Once opened, pasteurized crab meat needs to be used within three days.

Sweet, creamy blue crab is high in protein and low in fat. It contains calcium, iron, and vitamins as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to heart health.

For recipes featuring blue crab, visit www.fl-seafood.com/recipes/crab_recipes.htm.


Prosciutto Rolls

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* 1/4 cup pine nuts
* About 20 thin slices of good-quality prosciutto
* 1 small bunch spinach
* 1/4 pound gorgonzola


1. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F until they turn golden brown. You'll want to keep a close eye on them because they go from golden brown to burned very quickly. Transfer them to a small bowl and let them cool.

2. Cut each slice of prosciutto in half, crosswise.Top each half-slice with a small piece of spinach, a dab of gorgonzola, a few pine nuts.Then roll them into little mini horns.

3.Arrange on a platter and serve.

Start to Finish: Less than 20 Min.    Yields: 40 Appetizers


Skillet Kielbasa and Potatoes

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*2 tablespoons olive oil
*2 pounds potatoes, cubed
*1 large onion, chopped
*1 (14 ounce) package kielbasa (Polish), sliced 1/4 inch thick
*1 teaspoon dried thyme
*1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1/4 teaspoon pepper


1. Cook the potatoes and onions, covered, in hot oil over medium heat about 5 minutes or until onion is nearly tender, stirring occasionally.

2. Add kielbasa. Cook, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until potatoes and onions are tender and slightly brown, stirring often.

3. Stir in thyme, cumin, salt and pepper; cook and stir for 1 more minute.

Prep Time: 10 Min.    Cook Time: 16 Min.    Yields: 6 Servings


Lemon Chicken

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*4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound total)
*1/3 cup all-purpose flour
*1/4 teaspoon pepper
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 cup chicken broth
*1/4 cup lemon juice
*1 tablespoon cornstarch
*1/4 cup green onions


1. Rinse chicken; pat dry. In a shallow dish stir together flour and pepper. Lightly coat each piece of chicken with flour mixture.

2. In a large skillet cook chicken in hot butter over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink, turning once. Remove chicken from skillet and keep warm.

3. For sauce, in small bowl stir together chicken broth, lemon juice and cornstarch. Add to skillet. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for two more minutes. Stir in green onions. Serve chicken with sauce.

Prep Time:
10 Min    Cook Time: 15 Min    Yields: 4 Servings


Hot 'n Spicy Stir-fry Beef

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*3 tablespoons olive oil
*1 flank or round steak (about 1 pound)
*3 cups stir-fry vegetables
*1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
*1/4teaspoon garlic powder
*1/2 cup water divided
*1/4 cup ketchup
*1½ teaspoons cornstarch
*1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


1. In large skillet, heat oil and stir-fry steak until just browned. Remove steak and set aside.

2. In same skillet over medium heat add vegetables, 1/4 cup water, red pepper, and garlic powder. Cover and cook 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine remaining ingredients; blend well.

4. Return meat to skillet; add ketchup mixture and bring to boil. Cook until sauce thickens and glaze develops.

5. Serve with rice or chow mein noodles.

Prep Time: 5 Min    Cook Time: 15 Min    Yields: 4 Servings

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