KFC’s chicken spice blend is reportedly made up of 11 herbs and spices, a combination that’s a secret; the same holds true for Celeste Russell’s boiled crab and dough recipe that she boasts has 10 secret herbs and spices which she’s perfected over the years and has people calling on her practically from the first crab hits the streets of New Providence for her boiled crab and dough.
And she stands behind her claim that she makes one of the best boiled crab and dough around, even though she’s not descendant from Andros. All she knows is that when her clients see a roadside vendor with just one crab in their pen, they’re calling her up to find out when her pots will be hitting the stove at her home-based business, Celeste’s Crab Cabin.
“I have my customer base, so if they go on the street and see one crab on the road they’re calling asking if I have any crab yet,” she said.
Essentially, Russell, who holds down a full-time job, is a secretary by day, and can be described as a weekend boiled crab and dough warrior. (But she’s able to whip up small orders during the week if she needs to.) She’s even found herself having to fill orders that have to be shipped to the Family Islands.
Celeste’s Crab Cabin was born four years ago when she fell into her business by chance. Russell found herself cooking boiled crab and dough for socials with friends and family where guests raved about and encouraged her to sell her product.
Russell originally learnt how to prepare boiled crab and dough from watching her mom, Theus Bain.
“Our neighbors across the street, they used to have crabs coming in and sell them and my mom used to get them and we would have boiled crab, but my thing is the old-fashioned way with salt and black pepper that was just very bland with no fancy stuff. Through experimentation with herbs and spices she improved on her mom’s boiled crab and dough recipe until she perfected her own herb and spice blend that she uses.
“Like the Colonel has 11 herbs and spices, I have 10 secret herbs and spices. And over the years I’ve enhanced it, but in a more gourmet-style fashion,” she said. “Basically, everybody tells me how really good it is, and a lot of people dip the dough in the broth that I cook the crabs in. The minute you open that lid that aroma just fills the air. Whatever I give people … let them judge me by what they receive.”
The real test is in the taste and I had to put Russell through the paces.
The boiled crab and dough arrived in a sealed foil pan, and when I lifted the lid, the aroma that she spoke to assailed my nostrils and I hadn’t even tasted it yet. I pulled a ball of dough off the first crab, which I opened to fat that was a beautiful, almost mustard color it was so yellow, broke off a piece and went in for a scoop to find fat that was sweet, not bitter at all. With delight, I finished the crab and took it out of the foil pan to find nestled beneath the body the biters and fins, cracked and ready to fish all that crab meat out. Like her customers, I went in for a taste of the broth with a spoon, and not knowing what to expect, I found it delightful. The one thing I missed was a hint of spice, but I guess that may not be a spice in Russell’s mixture or she uses it really sparingly.
Another one of her secrets she said is super clean crabs inside which she feeds with fruits and coconut, and scrubs to a glistening shell on the outside before they’re boiled. When she brings them in, she ensures they’re well-fed which she says she does for between three to four weeks before she cooks to order.
“Basically, it’s a Saturday thing, but small orders I can handle through the week.”
The secretary by day/boiled crab and dough maker by night said she usually orders five dozen crabs per time from her supplier, and during the season she said she can order approximately five times.
Russell’s crab prices vary with a small boiled crab and dough running at $10, the medium at $12, and the large at $15. But who eats just one crab? She also sells them wholesale and people can purchase six medium crabs for $60. For your taste of Russell’s boiled crab and dough, WhatsApp her at 447-4087.