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
lettuce

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.

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