Crab can be enjoyed any time of year, however, spring and summer are the best seasons to find fresh crab at your grocery or seafood store. In fall and winter, Dungeness, king and snow crabs are often ice-packed and shipped frozen to seafood and grocery stores. Wondering what to eat with crabs? No matter the time of year, take tips and clues for side dish ideas from the coastal regions, where crab is caught and served fresh with a variety of side dishes popular in each region. Choose side dishes to go with crab legs to suit your favorite regional culinary style.
New Orleans-Style Side Dishes
Go for a Creole or Cajun theme, select steamed crab side dishes commonly served in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Favorites include red beans and rice, known as dirty rice. Dirty Rice is a classic dish made with cooked rice that's pan-fried and sautéed with onions, celery, green peppers and ground beef, and seasoned with fiery spices, such as cayenne pepper. Make red beans and rice and add some New Orleans boudin sausage to the pot. Substitute smoked pork sausages if you can't find boudin.
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Serve hush puppies as sides with crab legs instead of bread. Hush puppies are a corn bread batter fried to form round fritters. Balance their richness with a simple green salad with lettuce and tomatoes. Then, you'll have a variety of sides to go with crab legs or whole crab, just as they do in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
Atlantic Coast Side Dishes
From Maine to Florida, sides with crab legs make up a favorite meal from sunrise to sunset. Corn on the cob and red new potatoes are classic sides with crab legs and whole steamed crab. In the northern region, cooks prepare a big pot of boiling water to cook the corn and potatoes. Travel to the southern Atlantic region and the same technique is used, but they add spices, such as the seafood favorite, Old Bay, and sometimes beer. Folks down south often refer to the cooking technique as a low country boil.
Other options for sides to go with crab legs in the Atlantic tradition include coleslaw or potato salad. Soups, such as clam chowder and cioppino, also make great side dishes for steamed crabs. You can vary the menu by serving a salad or steamed broccoli or asparagus as side dishes with crab legs or whole crab.
California-Style Steamed Crab Side Dishes
Steamed Dungeness crab is a favorite along the Pacific coast. California cuisine focuses on fresh vegetables and salads. You can steam and serve green vegetables, such as asparagus, artichokes, French-cut string beans or broccoli to go along with steamed crabs. Or, serve a classic Caesar or mixed green salad as California-style steamed crab side dishes.
A classic coastal California dish featuring steamed crab is a crab Louie salad, which features olives, hard-boiled eggs, cucumber, avocado, tomato and other fresh vegetables. Steamed shrimp sometimes features along with steamed crab, and a zingy, creamy Louie dressing ties it together.
Breads and Desserts
Serve corn bread or hush puppies to create a New Orleans-style sides to go with crab legs. Baguettes or Italian breads go well with steamed crabs served in a northern Atlantic style, along with cheesecake or a baked or fried apple pies for desert. Opt for a sourdough bread to serve your California-style steamed crabs.
After a main course of many delicious side dishes along with steamed crabs, opt for a light dessert, such as a bowl of sorbet topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries or raspberries. If you're following up a Southern-style crab feast, keep to the theme with regional favorites like banana pudding, peach cobbler or red velvet cake.