Friday, August 21, 2009

Soft Crabs, Scallops and Friday Night Tornadoes

Our raw ingredients: sea scallops, soft crabs, cornmeal, Italian salt and black pepper.

It's soft shell crab season here in Maryland, which means it's time to feast!

The very first time I learned how to clean a soft shell crab, I was unnerved. While necessary, it's rather unpleasant work if you're someone, like me, who doesn't relish killing creatures - and the dispatching of a soft shell crab, while not horrific, doesn't seem like a pleasant experience.

Step 1: Cut off the face.

First, you start off by holding the crab in your hand and using kitchen shears to literally cut off the face of the crab. That part always makes me cringe. Just a big SNIP and you're done. Evidently, it's a merciful killing but I can't help think that it's got to be painful for the crab.

Step 2: Cut off the gills.

Next, you pull the shell up by the points and snip out the inedible gills on both sides of the crab. Turn it over, pull back the apron and snip that off as well. Once those four snips have been completed, you're done and the crab is ready for cooking.

Step 3: Cut off the apron and you're ready to go!

During my trip to Atlanta last April, we visited the Dekalb Farmers Market where I picked up a bag of J.T. Pollard Medium Ground White Corn Meal. I've been meaning to try it out and coating the crab seemed like a good idea. Salt and pepper the crab on the inside and out, dredge in the cornmeal and it's off the saute pan.

Cooking Philosophy #1: No knob of butter is ever "too big."

Once the pan is nice and hot, a little oil plus a knob of butter (for good measure) and we're off the races. Lay the crabs in the butter and let them cook away. Just a few minutes on each side to cook through then let rest on some paper towels to dry out.

Saute the soft shell crabs.

Meanwhile, I've seasoned some more day boat sea scallops from the local fishmonger and started searing them. Sear both sides in a butter oil mixture and you're good to go. Serve both with some hot Japanese style steamed rice and that's a dinner perfect for a Friday night heavy thunderstorm with threats of tornadoes.

A little Friday night seafood extravaganza.