The Oregon Coast, or the People’s Coast as it is proudly claimed by locals, is broody, devastatingly beautiful, and at this time of year, more than 50 shades of gray. Every single one of the 363 miles of Oregon’s coastline are open and free to be enjoyed by the public, officially since 1967, which along with the impressive network of state parks that beeline the coast, is what makes a visit to Oregon’s coastline truly must-see-before-you-die. But right now, it’s winter, what do we eat when we get there?
Luckily for us on the west coast, this is exactly the time the Dungeness crabs are plump and ready to pull out of the ocean. James Beard, the father of modern American cuisine, and native Oregonian once said, “Dungeness Crab is sheer, unadulterated crab heaven.” (See below for James Beard’s beloved deviled crab recipe.) Or, as Bethany Jean Clement, food writer for The Seattle Times, put it in her story this time last year, “At its freshest, Dungeness crab tastes only as oceanic as the wind off the water, more delicate and closer to sweet than anything from the bottom of the sea should imaginably be.”
Commercially speaking, Dungeness crabs weren’t filling out their shells yet on December 1st, Oregon’s official crab harvest opening date, and are now in pricing negotiations with buyers, so commercial harvest for Dungeness still hasn’t started as I’m writing this. Recreational harvest, however, is up and running and people are able to crab pot up and down the Oregon coast from the mouth of the Columbia River to Cape Blanco in the south.
I could tell you how to go crabbing, but the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has you covered.
For more resources, including required licenses and rules of harvest, visit Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife here: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/licenses_regs/
For updates on closures and openings when you’re planning your trip: http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/FoodSafety/Shellfish/Pages/ShellfishClosures.aspx
Dungeness crab isn’t the only thing you can find coming out of the ocean right now. Lingcod, Rockfish, Sole, Flounder and Black Cod can also be found fresh at fishmongers all over Oregon. In my opinion, though, black cod is what you’re looking for.
Also known as sablefish in Jewish delis on the USA’s east coast and in many parts of the rest of the world, it is delicate, fatty and perfectly flaky when done. Probably the best fish, aside from a gorgeous Pacific Northwest salmon, that I’ve ever eaten, for one very simple reason: smoking. There is nothing better in the world than a rainy day spent next to the smoker with the promise of flaky, savory smoked black cod in your near future. I’ll post my recipe with pictures of this (and our other adventures in Portland and beyond) on our Instagram page. And if you’re in Portland, go pick up some black cod, already smoked to perfection for you from Portland Fish Market (4404 SE Woodstock Blvd.) or Flying Fish Company (2340 NE Sandy). Both shops have other seafood treats as well, like oysters on the half shell and fish & chips, or other take away items for your perfect winter picnic or dinner in.
Beards’ recipe for Deviled Crab, so simple, but so, so good.
In the meantime, stay tuned to The Big Foody PDX for new Northern Coast food and drink tours coming online end of summer 2018! We’re so excited to share the beauty and deliciousness of the Oregon Coast with you!
RESOURCES FOR SOURCING SEAFOOD SUSTAINABLY
Oregon’s Seafood Consumer Guide 2017 from OSU’s Sea Grant Program (what to look for at the fishmonger)