Year of the Sandwich — A Soft Spot for Soft Shells

Spring is a really good time for food. And several great seasonal items appear around this part of the year.

One of my very favorites is the morel mushroom, which they sometimes (rarely) get at Whole Foods. So driving down the street the other day, rather than shaking my head sadly at all the people mortgaging their futures to shop there when the Whole Foods came into view, I pulled in.

Soft shell crab sandwich

There were no morels.

I continued back to the seafood counter to see if there was anything interesting there. And my eyes nearly escaped their sockets when I realized it was also the time of year of one of my other most favoritest things: soft shell crabs. And on sale, no less!!

The delicious blue crab becomes one of nature’s most unfortunate creatures in spring, when it sheds its shell and must try to find shelter and hide out while its new shell hardens. But those fisherman are savvy. And so it is our good fortune when for a few months each year, the soft little suckers find their way across the country (blue crabs are an Atlantic thing) onto our fish counters.

Another angle

I purchased two, not wanting to be greedy.

I had plans to make Korean food for dinner, and thought I might slip onto the menu a dish inspired by another Southeast Asian cuisine — my sinfully tasty Vietnamese-style garlic “crack” crabs (so named by friends for their addictive quality). Instead, I made one crab into a variation of the classic Maryland soft shell sandwich, and saved the other for some other selfish use. (Which turned out to be another Maryland soft shell sandwich the next day.)

While I love soft shells in other guises — those “crack” crabs, for example; or Italian-style with garlic and lemon — the soft shell sandwich may be the very best crab dish of all: soft white bread dressed only with homemade tartar, fresh romaine lettuce and a beer-battered crab. Simple, fresh, delicious.

I mentioned to my pal Mike that soft shells were in season, and his eyes lit up. We had, he insisted, to plan a “classic” East Coast dinner of soft shell sandwiches, grilled rare steak and heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella. That was all the encouragement I needed.

I no longer cared about being greedy. I bought a dozen.

*    *    *

Soft-shell crab sandwich
serves 4

4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned
1 cup flour
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/2 cup beer
1 cup vegetable oil
8 slices thick, soft white bread
1/4 cup tartar sauce
4 large romaine lettuce leaves
salt to taste

Toss the crabs in 1/2 cup flour to cover. Mix together the remaining flour and Old Bay. Stir in the beer.

In a wok or medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until a drop of batter sizzles. Dip crabs in batter and fry, two at a time, about 2-3 minutes per side (or until crisp and golden). Note: you may want to stand back a bit, as the crabs have a tendency to pop hot oil as they cook.

When cooked, remove from heat to paper towels to drain.

Place lettuce leaves on a slice of bread. Top with a crab, and 1 tbsp. of tartar sauce. Top with the other slice of bread, and enjoy with a hoppy IPA or glass of zinfandel.

Kim Chee to the Rescue, Again!

It was Super Bowl Sunday, and things were not going well.

A few evenings earlier, I had awoken in the middle of the night with one of those sneezes that tells you immediately a cold is imminent.

We had friends for dinner Friday night, and despite feeling a bit under the weather, I cooked and ate and drank and toasted and laughed. And then went to bed. And didn’t sleep a wink — the entire night.

My medicine

My medicine

I got up, jittery, tired and sick. And went for a run. When I got home, I showered, took a Benadryl, climbed back in bed. And slept for four hours. When I woke, I felt wildly out of sorts — even sleepier than I had been, my vision skewed, my depth perception practically non existent. More

Goodbye, Year of the Taco

In the first weeks of January, I declared 2016 would be the “Year of the Taco” at Skinny Girls & Mayonnaise. And the year did not disappoint.

The last taco

The last taco

I ate delicious tacos in East L.A., Mexico and Hawaii. I added six new taco recipes — including air-dried pork, Veracruz-style fish and Oaxacan turkey mole — to a blog that already boasted nearly a dozen. It was a good year. More

Carbonara in the Clouds

On a recent vacation to Lake Tahoe with our friends the Heins and the Pfaffs, I planned a post-ski carbonara — a perfect simple pasta to feed a large group.

For some reason, the pasta never got made — perhaps it was the Flintstone-esque beef short ribs or the opening of Dungeness crab season that distracted us, or the mellow lull of the tequila that met us first.

Through the Mojave Desert on the road to Tahoe

Through the Mojave Desert on the road to Tahoe

So the eggs, guanciale, parmesan and spaghetti that made the 8-hour drive into the high Sierras turned around and came back home again. And made the perfect post-ski-trip dinner when we got back. Just as well, pasta is a little tricky to nail at 8,000 feet.


Tacotopia, Episode #3: In Praise of Gringo Tacos

My family loves Taco Bell. “Can we stop at Taco Bell!?” the kids yell anytime we drive past one. And sometimes we relent, because we love Taco Bell too!

Taco shells and Taco Bell seasoning

Taco shells and Taco Bell seasoning

Not in the same way we love a good Baja fish tacos, or al pastor tacos on the street in Jalisco. But the comforting crunch of a gringo taco, as I like to call them — hard shell, spiced ground beef, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, a few tiny cubes of flavorless tomato and taco sauce — is its own piece of nostalgic heaven. More

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