Crab Season in Chesapeake

We were recently on the East Coast, an adventure whose photos some of you may have seen on my Instagram @skinnygirlsandmayo.

The journey commenced in Washington D.C., although we flew into Baltimore.

“Maybe we should spend a day in Baltimore,” said pal Jon, who was born in Baltimore and happened to be traveling with us. I was reminded of a scene from the movie, “Shape of Water”:

Elaine Strickland: “I’m really beginning to like the house. And it’s only 30 minutes from D.C.!”

Richard Strickland: “It’s still Baltimore, Elaine. No one likes Baltimore.”

The first crab of the trip

We opted to skip Baltimore, heading instead directly for the Amtrak to D.C., which took about 30 minutes.

While I was more or less indifferent at best to the prospect of visiting Baltimore (especially at the expense of a day in D.C.), I was highly enthusiastic about one of Baltimore’s most famous products — crab. And specifically, soft-shell crab, one of my favorite foods on earth, which happened to be in season.

Upon checking into our Airbnb in Capitol Hill, I set out for the local Giant food store to get some provisions, and made two important discoveries. The first was Cape Cod limited edition “New England Bisque” potato chips, perhaps the greatest chip ever (which I then spent the remainder of the journey trying to find — successfully in Brooklyn, less so in the Adirondacks and Boston). The second was Chesapeake soft-shell crabs, four for $10! (I’m used to spending $6.99 a crab at home.) I purchase eight and headed triumphantly back to Capitol Hill.

Chip flavors you can’t get in Los Angeles

When shopping for three days at an Airbnb, you try to not purchase too much — especially things you might use only once, like flour or oil. Fortunately there was oil already in the house, but what to crust the crabs with? Necessity, as they say, turned out to be the mother of invention. I spied a very large bag of oyster crackers. I put the delighted children to work with mallets reducing the crackers to dust. I would then dredge the crab in the crumbs, fry them up (setting off the smoke detectors throughout the house), and place them with mayo and lettuce in some super soft Hawaiian bread-esque rolls I’d purchased for the occasion.

For all my highfalutin preparations of soft shells — tempura, Vietnamese sweet, Italian sophisticated, etc. — these crabs may have been the very best of all.

Crabs in the Adirondacks with salad of pears, blue cheese and Chuck’s Costo nut mix brittle

Before departing D.C., we stopped at the Giant and picked up five packs of frozen Chesapeake crabs — 20 in all! — to continue the crab roadshow at Jon’s family’s lake house in the Adirondacks, where wouldn’t you know it, those little suckers once again stole the show.

Get yerself to your local Giant and get cooking — the season is passing! Enjoy.

*    *    *

Chesapeake oyster cracker-crusted soft-shell crab sandwich
serves 4

4 soft rolls (cheap hot dog rolls work well)
4 tbsp. soft butter
4 soft-shell crabs
2 cups oyster crackers
1 cup flour
1/2 beer
1 cup canola or peanut oil
salt & pepper to taste
4 tbsp. mayo

If using hot dog buns (or similar), carefully slice of the top 1/4 inch of the bun lengthwise to expose the bread. Spread top of each with a tablespoon of butter.

Heat a skillet over high heat, and place the rolls butter down on the skillet. Toast for about a minute, until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Using a rolling pin or meat mallet, smash the crackers to crumbs.

Preheat oven to 250. Heat oil in a skillet large enough for all four crabs over medium-high heat. Dredge each crab in flour, dip in beer, then roll in crumbs to thoroughly cover. Fry crabs about 2 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper, and place on a rack in the oven to drain for 5 minutes.

Compose sandwiches: spread a tablespoon of mayo on each roll, top with a crab, and then a couple of leaves of lettuce.

Serve with a cold IPA.


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!! More

Tacos, Foiled!

I was trying to make tacos, a simple enough goal.

And yet, I was being foiled.

Veracruz-style fish tacos

Veracruz-style fish tacos

Whilst in Seattle, my pal Bob reminded me that it was the “Year of the Taco” at Skinny Girls & Mayo. I hadn’t exactly forgotten, per se — but I clearly hadn’t been focusing any of my narrative attention lately to the recording of taco adventures in the kitchen. More

Crispy Shrimp Risotto Fake Out

I’m a big believer in the ol’ saying, “If life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” I often spring it on my children when something hasn’t gone the way they were hoping, and they roll their eyes at me.

One lemon that life keeps giving me over and over again is burnt rice. About one out of every three times I make sushi rice, I space out and forget to turn it off and it burns.

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out

If it isn’t too burned, I’m able to salvage most of the rice and it has a nice woodsy nutty smoked taste that works well with sushi. Also if it’s not too burned, the “burnt” part comes off with a wrist twist of the spatula in crusty golden brown strips. If you put it in a 200 degree oven for 40 or so minutes, it dries out and becomes the hard stuff the Chinese fry to drop into sizzling rice. More

The Green Party

I’m always on the lookout for interesting ethnic markets. And so, while driving several days a week to a deep western corner of the San Fernando Valley to visit my father recovering from cranial surgery, was delighted to discover the Island Pacific Supermarket.

Green papaya salad

Green papaya salad

My repertoire of markets boasts a healthy array of ethnicities — Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, German, Italian, Persian, Mexican… But here was something new — a Filipino market! More

Previous Older Entries