Makes 4 first-course servings

Notes: Classically, this Japanese custard is made with clams. Dashi-no-moto (powdered soup base made from fish, mushrooms, and seaweed) is sold in Asian markets or well-stocked grocery stores. Reconstitute as directed on package for noodle soup; cool slightly.

How to Make It

Step 1

In a bowl, beat eggs to blend with sherry, soy sauce, sugar, and salt. Whisk in dashi, then stir in crab, green onion, and ginger.

Step 2

Pour egg mixture equally into 4 custard cups or ramekins (8-oz. size). Cover cups tightly with foil.

Step 3

Pour 1 inch of water into a 5- to 6-quart pan (about 10 in. wide and 4 in. deep); set a rack in pan over water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to a simmer and set custard cups slightly apart on rack. Cover pan and simmer until custards barely jiggle in the center when cups are gently shaken (lift foil to check), 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 4

How to cook crab

Step 5

Keep live crabs loosely covered in the refrigerator up to 12 hours. Grasp crabs carefully from the rear end, between the legs, and put in a pan to make sure they fit, with 3 to 4 inches of clearance below pan rim. Remove crabs and fill pan with enough water to cover crabs by 2 to 3 inches. Cover pan and bring water to a boil over high heat.

Step 6

One at a time, grasp crabs as described above and plunge them headfirst into the boiling water; if you have too much water, ladle out excess and discard. Cover pan and start timing. When water resumes boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-pound crabs 15 minutes, 3-pound crabs about 20 minutes.

Step 7

Drain crabs; to be able to handle quickly, rinse briefly with cool water.

Step 8

How to clean, crack, and shell crab

Step 9

Pull off and discard triangular flap from belly side.

Step 10

Turn crab belly side down; pulling from the rear end, lift off back shell. Drain and discard liquid from shell. If desired, scoop soft, golden crab butter and white crab fat from shell into a small bowl to eat by the spoonful with crab or to stir into a dipping sauce. If using back shell for garnish, break bony section (mouth) from front end of shell and discard. Rinse shell well and drain.

Step 11

On the body section, pull off and discard reddish membrane that covers the center (if it hasn't come off with the back) and any loose pieces. Scoop out any remaining golden butter and add to bowl. Pull off and discard long, spongy gills from sides of body. Rinse body well with cool water.

Step 12

Twist legs and claws from body. Using a nutcracker or wood mallet, crack the shell of each leg and claw section. With a knife, cut the body into quarters.

Step 13

Break apart legs and claws; using your fingers, a small fork, a pick, or a crab leg tip, remove meat. Pull body sections apart and dig out pockets of meat. Discard shells. One cooked, cleaned 1 3/4- to 2-pound crab (with back shell) yields 7 1/2 to 8 ounces (1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups) of meat; heavier crabs do not always have more meat.

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