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Related Ingredients

Tasting Notes

When it comes to crabmeat, hard work really does pay off.

Today, Michael Mina shares his straightforward instructions to pull the meat from the shell, ensuring the sweetest, freshest, most delicate crabmeat you’ve ever tasted. Picked clean of their meat, the crab shells enrich the flavor of this well-balanced broth. Sautéed onions, carrots and leeks echo the crab’s sweetness, while jalapeños or Fresno chiles bring heat. Orange juice and white wine lend both sweetness and acidity, while clam juice adds brininess. We get a hint of spice from basil stems, fennel and coriander seeds.

Tips & Techniques

  1. Fresh is best. Always ask your fishmonger when the crabs came in and when they were cooked. Ideally, the store will steam them for you right when you order.
  2. Crack ‘em up. To get the most flavor out of the crab shells and into your broth, crack the shells into small pieces.
  3. Sweat it out. For maximum concentration of flavor, it’s very important to sweat the vegetables until they’re very soft and falling apart before adding any liquid to the mixture.
  4. Avoid a mess. When you’re ready to strain your broth, use a spider to remove large shells before you pour the broth through a strainer. This will help to prevent splashing.


These tools are the ones we find especially helpful when making this dish.

  1. Scissors (or kitchen shears). Snipping the shells is a simple trick for removing the crabmeat from its shell while keeping the lumps intact.

The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.

  • Large bowl
  • Scissors or kitchen sheers
  • Le Creuset large roasting pan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Mesh tea ball
  • Blender
  • Mesh strainer
  • Small or medium-sized baking sheet
  • Medium-sized baking sheet


For the Fresh-Picked Crab Meat:

  • 4 cooked Dungeness crabs (or 4 clusters of large snow crab or king crab legs, which are often sold frozen at the fish market*), cracked & steamed by fishmonger, reserving all shells
  • 1 1/3 cups goes to Crab Toast, remaining goes to the broth when building the plate

*If you’re using frozen crab legs, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the king crab legs for about 10 minutes, or until they are heated through. Snow crab legs, which are slightly smaller, will be done in 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the meat by snipping through the hard exterior of the legs with kitchen shears.

*Ask for crab, cooked and cleaned with all the shells except for the crown to see what we get.
For the Cioppino Broth:

  • ½ cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 leeks, white part only, sliced thinly
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced thinly
  • 1 bulb fennel, core removed and sliced thinly
  • 2 red Fresno chiles or jalapeño peppers, sliced thinly
  • 8 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bottle white wine
  • 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • Stems from 1 bunch basil
  • 1 quart (4 cups) clam juice
  • Bodies and shells of 4 crabs, meat removed
  • Juice of 4 oranges
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Serves: 4

Total Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes

Active Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes


For the Fresh-Picked Crab Meat:

  1. Place crabs on small baking sheet. Pull meat aside and place on another small baking sheet, place shells in bowl and reserve for broth. Reserve picked crab meat for Crab Toasts and/or Cioppino Broth.
  2. Save crab legs for plating in bowl or ¼ sheet pan. Using kitchen shears, snip a thin segment of shell out of the base of each crab leg to make it easy for guests to access the meat within. Reserve the snipped crab legs on a small baking sheet.

For the Cioppino Broth:

  1. Break up crab shells into small pieces.
  2. Heat your pan over high heat. Add crab shells to the hot pan, stir, and then add grapeseed oil. Roast shells for 5 minutes.
  3. Place coriander and fennel seeds in mesh tea ball and set to the side. Add onions, leeks, carrots, fennel, celery, garlic, and Fresnos and sauté until vegetables sweat and become translucent, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Continue cooking until the tomato paste is sticky and starts to brown. (The smell of the raw tomato paste will be gone and it will smell like caramelizing vegetables.)
  5. Add basil stems and wine and de-glaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce the wine by ½.
  6. Stir in diced tomatoes, clam juice and orange juice. Place tea ball with spices in stew.
  7. Reduce heat and let simmer 45 minutes.
  8. Remove tea ball and taste the broth for spice. If you would like it spicier at this point, add more peppers. Remove broth from heat and let cool slightly. Pour broth in batches into a blender and blend on low just enough to break up the shells. Push through coarse strainer. Discard shells. Return to pot.

Here is a great way to turn this dish into a meal

Corn crab chowder & garlic bread

To make a quick “crab chowder,” add corn to the broth with the crab meat and serve with garlic bread.