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IT TAKES SOME BRAWN to crack a lobster claw or a tough crab shell. If you’re using a traditional nutcracker, it’s messy work and easy to send a piece flying. Caretta Shellfish Pliers from Drosselmeyer (about $60), a Swedish design company (they reinvented the old-style nutcracker and named the company for a character in the “Nutcracker’’ ballet), is an artfully crafted, stainless steel tool with a spring-loaded handle and double lever that requires only a gentle squeeze to crack shells. Jaws open wide and serrated teeth firmly hold the crustacean. Apply a little pressure and it crushes from underneath so meat isn’t smashed and juices don’t spray you in the face but drip nicely onto the plate. Available at Local Root, 221 Concord Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-2400; Kitchen Outfitters, Acton Woods Plaza, 342 Great Road, Acton, 978-263-1955; and Eurostoves, 45 Enon St., Beverly, 978-232-0007.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND