Food

Stone crab season is starting. So when can you get the fresh claws?

Draw the butter and mix up the mustard sauce. It’s stone crab season.

Stone crabs officially go on the menu when the season opens Oct. 15. Traps, which have been in the water for a week to 10 days throughout the Florida Keys, can be pulled up as early as midnight.

But be wary.

This is the time of year when some restaurants will serve stone crabs frozen from last season, until catches start coming in. It’s debatable whether the deep freeze affects the taste, but diners should know what they’re paying for. Be sure to call ahead or ask your waiter.

Many restaurants won’t have fresh stone crabs on the menu until Oct. 16.

Longtime South Florida favorites such as Garcia’s Seafood Grille and Joe’s Stone Crab have their own fleets and should be among the first to have fresh stock in their restaurants. But be sure to ask, again, if their stock is thawed or fresh from this season.

Do the same at fish markets, which also may store stone crab in a deep freeze from when the season ended May 15 for the first few days of this season. Grocery stores and larger chain restaurants may not have fresh stone crab until the end of the week or early next week. Be sure to call ahead and ask.

Last season, red tide hurt the west coast of Florida’s fishing industry and that affected prices.

A note to recreational stone crabbers: This year the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requires that all traps be registered online for free. Each person will receive a trap number that must be applied to each trap, along with his or her name and address. More information, including strictly enforced rules on minimum sizes, can be found at the commission’s website.

If you’d rather eat your stone crabs at home, Joe’s published the recipe to its famous mustard sauce in its 1993 cookbook, “Eat at Joe’s: The Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant Cookbook.”

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Joe’s Mustard Sauce

1 tablespoon Colman’s dry mustard, or more to taste

1 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon A-1 steak sauce

2 tablespoons light cream

Salt to taste

Place the mustard in a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the mayonnaise and beat for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until the mixture is well blended and creamy. If you’d like a little more mustardy bite, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon more dry mustard until well blended. Chill the sauce, covered, until serving.

Miami Herald food editor Carlos Frías won the 2018 James Beard award for excellence in covering the food industry. A Miami native, he’s also the author of “Take Me With You: A Secret Search for Family in a Forbidden Cuba.”
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