The crab-fishing captains of Discovery Channel’s Tuesday reality hit “Deadliest Catch” supply a lot of tasty shellfish to tables around the world. So, when it’s time to sit down to eat between pulling Bering Sea crab pots on the F/V Time Bandit, what’s on the menu?
“Out on the boat,” says co-captain (with brother Andy) Johnathan Hillstrand, “we all cook together. There’s seven of us guys, and guys are actually pretty good cooks. Everyone knows their own specialty. Somebody knows how to make spaghetti, or I make chili. Mine is just plain chili; it’s not real spicy. If you want to add Tabasco, it’s there.
“But I can cook almost anything. I make a nice salad, with vinaigrette. Basically, we’ll buy full filets, and we’ll trim them ourselves. We eat crab, of course, a lot of fresh crab. A lot of these boats, they eat pizza pockets, and they don’t eat right. If you don’t eat, you can’t go without sleep. So it’s your job to eat.
“If some guy doesn’t like to eat breakfast, I make him do a watch, so he’ll learn really quick to eat breakfast.”
As to whether they go into their storage tanks for crab, Hillstrand says, “We pull them right out of the pot. We’ll pull out the big ones. The legs are a foot and a half long. You can’t even put them on a plate. You guys don’t see those crab; they go right to Japan.
“We’ll cook up a whole filet mignon, three big 12-pound crabs, and we’ll have a feast.”
The Hillstrands like to put a crab spin on favorites.
“I like to do a crab Benedict,” Johnathan says. “You use crab instead of the ham. That is so good. Then, what we do on the boat, we’ll have a big crab feast. Then the next morning, you’ll mix a cup of crab with a couple of eggs and just scramble it — oh, my God, it is so good.
“My brother does crab melts — just two eggs, English muffins, cheese. It’s so good. We love crab. I’ll order crab at restaurants, king crab, and they’ll go, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ ‘I’m hungry for crab.’ Or I’ll get a steak.
“It all starts for me, what your ingredients are. You can’t make a bad steak taste good. So, it’s all ingredients. Like your seafood, with good seafood, you can’t go wrong unless you overcook it.”
The crab captain may love his catch, but there’s another crustacean that gets his taste buds excited.
“My favorite food is prawns,” he says. “The more shellfish, the better. I eat those raw. I can’t wait to get up to Alaska, to Kachemak Bay. They have prawns up there, and we eat them raw, and scallops too. I could live off prawns.”