Seattle Recap – Dungeness Crab and Vietnamese Spring Rolls

{I received travel accommodations to Seattle and race registration for two as a member of the Hot Chocolate Blog Ambassador Program. All opinions are my own.}  

The number one thing I wanted to do in Seattle {Part 1 here} was be outdoors. It was a freezing zero degrees back in Chicago that weekend, and a balmy 50+ degrees out west. Finding outdoor activities is easy in Seattle, with access to mountains and the ocean. On Saturday morning, our friends took us out on a short sail with Jack, their friend who retired to live on his sailboat “Annie” five years ago. A beautiful clear {but windy} day, this was my first time on a legitimate sailboat. My photo attempts out on the water ended up lopsided  due to sailing at an angle {I’m sure there’s a proper sailing term}, but the view from the harbor cannot be missed.

Sunday took us in another direction, driving northeast into the hills. After the Hot Chocolate race, we headed straight to the mountains to hike the Lake Serene Trail with an extra loop to see Bridal Veil Falls. It was a beautiful day for a hike, in the mid 40s and sunny in the Cascade Mountain Range. The hike to Lake Serene includes an elevation climb of 2,500 feet. The trail is just over 7 miles up and back, but adding on the loop to Bridal Veil Falls made the hike 8.2 miles for the day. The Lake Serene Trailhead is just over an hour’s drive from Seattle.

As you as probably aware, there are zero hills in Chicago. Finishing the hills on this hike made me realize I really need to work on my leg strength! My calves were incredibly tight for 3-4 days afterwards, and I spent a lot of time hobbling up/down stairs. Noted, body. Time to shake things up in the leg department. Despite the soreness afterwards, I loved this hike. The photo below shows our stop to eat snacks on rocks overlooking Lake Serene. The reflection of the mountains and sky in the water were beautiful.

After such an active weekend, we decided to stay in on Sunday night. We visited a local Vietnamese market to pick up crab and a few ingredients for spring rolls. I asked Jenny to teach me her techniques for two Vietnamese-style recipes, Dungeness Crab and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Most recipes I have seen call for eating crab with melted butter. Jenny’s preference is to use a squeeze of lime and a generous serving of black pepper. This is a much healthier way to accompany crab, and it is delicious. You can’t go wrong with lime juice.

I have eaten crab plenty of times, but I have never prepared it at home. I learned so much about cooking local crab from this experience! First, crab must be fresh {aka live} if you’re preparing at home. Keep fresh crabs chilled or on ice until ready to cook. Only male Dungeness Crabs can be fished; females must be returned to the water. Jenny prefers to freeze crab for at least 20 minutes prior to cooking. There are two methods to clean/cook crabs – 1) cook the crab and then clean it; or 2) clean the crab and then cook it. Jenny’s preference is number 2, to clean the crab following by cooking it. Find details on both methods from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. You can also save cooking time by breaking the crab legs apart prior to boiling.

Dungeness Crab
Serves 4.

3 Dungeness Crabs
7 quarts water {in an 8 quart stockpot}
1/4 cup salt
2 limes and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

How to~
*Bring water to a boil and add 1/4 cup salt. Adding salt allows the crab to maintain its flavor.
*After cleaning, boil crab for ~7 to 8 minutes per pound. We broke the crab legs apart to reduce the cooking time, approximately 25 minutes.
*Prepare the dipping sauce – squeeze half a lime and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper in four serving bowls.

While the crab was on to boil, we put together Vietnamese Spring Rolls, with shrimp, rice noodles, and leafy herbs. You can add anything to spring rolls {as long as it fits in your rice paper}, but shrimp is my favorite ingredient.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Serves 4.

Rice paper {8 papers}
1 head romaine or butter lettuce
Thai mint {1 bunch}
Thai basil {1 bunch}
1 cucumber
1/2 package {5 ounces} rice noodles
1 pound shrimp
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup hoisin sauce
4 Tablespoons crushed peanuts
3 cups warm water

How to~
*Boil rice noodles for ~3 minutes. Rinse noodles in cold water until the water runs clear.
*Spread noodles out on a towel to let them dry.
*Saute garlic in sesame oil for ~2 minutes on medium. Add shrimp, white wine, honey, and black pepper. Saute shrimp for ~2 minutes on each side.
*To prepare a spring roll, moisten the rice paper in warm water. Remove and let it sit for 1 minute. Add lettuce herbs, noodles, cucumber, and shrimp. Roll tightly, tucking the rice paper under until the spring roll is complete.
*For dipping sauce, split hoisin sauce between four bowls and add 1 Tablespoon crushed peanuts to each bowl.

We also snacked on homemade egg rolls – a perfect meal to end an active vacation day.

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