Though you can buy dungeness year round, in the cold water months they are at their sweetest and meatiest and most irresistible. When I spied these beauties in the case at the fish counter I knew what James would have for dinner.
Although it' s not for the dainty or faint of heart, it's an up to the elbows kind of dinner, I have been using the same method for Roasted Dungeness Crab since I first saw Chef Reed Hearon's (of San Francisco's Rose Pistola) recipe in Saveur Magazine. For two crabs the simple marinade mixes toasted and crushed fennel seeds (2 tsp), parsley (1 bunch), 2 cloves garlic, fresh thyme leaves (2 tsp), crushed red pepper (1 TB), S&P, and 1/3 cup olive oil (I generally use closer to a half cup) in the food processor and the mixture is poured over cleaned crabs and left to marinate in the fridge for 2 hours (I have often left it longer). Chef Hearon leaves his cleaned crabs whole -- I generally break ours into quarters. You can use cleaned and cracked crabs from the store but I like the rich taste of the crab fat so I generally don't clean ours too thoroughly. The crabs in their sauce are roasted at 400º for 10 - 15 minutes (just until hot through). Serve with warm bread and or roasted potatoes to sop up the delicious sauce . . . and plenty of paper towels.