Pan Fried Soft Shelled Crabs

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab

I love soft shell crabs…If they’re done right! It’s very easy to mess up this relatively simple dish, but when they’re done properly they are just fabulous! I’ve had my share of bad and good fried crabs. In fact in one case over on the Eastern Shore I had a fried soft shell crab that was so bad I couldn’t even finish eating it because it was just that horrible. Most of the other “bad” ones were at least edible, but in that instance it wasn’t the case.

For several years I’ve wanted to play around with soft shell crabs, but never found any that were live so I skipped the experience. I actually found some live, soft shelled crabs late last month and I was thrilled! I bought a couple, knowing I was the only one that would eat them. Jamison doesn’t like seafood (or much of anything for that fact) and Alexis won’t eat something that resembles the animal it came from. I have to agree with her on that point for the most part, given I can’t stand to see a fish served that still has a head. I have this thing about my food staring back at me, but that is neither here nor there at the moment.

Anyway…..

I bought a couple of live soft shelled crabs and the fish monger actually cleaned them for me. If you buy them from somewhere that you can have them cleaned for you I highly recommend you take that route. It isn’t hard to do, but I think it’s easier to just have it done for you. If you’d rather do it yourself Cooking Light has a very nice little tutorial on how to clean a soft shell crab that should set you in the right direction.

In my opinion there are two main ways to go wrong with soft shelled crabs: 1)You don’t season them properly or 2)They are either under or over fried. I remember once hearing Emeril quip that he wasn’t sure where we got our beef, but where he got his it didn’t come seasoned. This is true of most anything, including crabs. You have to season them properly for them to taste good!

I’ve been in Maryland now for 11 years and in that time I’ve steadily become more and more of a Maryland girl and in my mind crabs need Old Bay! This goes for soft shell crabs when you’re frying them. Have you ever heard of a Maryland crab that didn’t have a little Old Bay Seasoning thrown in for good measure? Crab soup, crab dip, crab cakes, more likely than not, if these dishes originated in Maryland you’re going to find Old Bay in the components of the dish. Old Bay is as big a part of Maryland as the crab or oyster themselves. Some people don’t care for Old Bay, but I’m a BIG fan!

As for frying it isn’t hard, but it’s essential that you do it right. I love sushi, but when it comes to crabs I want them cooked properly all the way done. This isn’t sushi grade salmon or tuna we’re talking about here. On the flip side if you cook them too long you’re going to end up with a hard, rubbery bit of nothing that is extremely hard to eat and doesn’t taste like much to boot. You want to look for a lightly browned outside that when touched still has a little bit of give to it over all. It takes roughly 2-3 minutes on the 1st side you fry and then 1-2 on the second. It’s quick, but don’t make it too quick!

Soft shelled crabs are a tradition around here. Everyone has their own spin on this little dish and this is mine. Eat them straight up, or make a sandwich with some lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, but either way you’re in for a treat!

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
Soft shelled crabs, cleaned
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1-2 tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning (Note: Use less if spicy isn’t your thing.)
Sea salt
Finely ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat heat olive oil until hot.

While oil is heating get started on your crabs.

Beat two eggs together in a dish and set aside.

Mix together flour and Old Bary seasoning on a plate. Set aside.

If your crabs aren’t cleaned (see the link above) you want to do that first:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab: Soft Shell Crab, Cleaned and Ready to Cook

Sprinkle cleaned crab with sea salt and black pepper and then dip in to beaten egg:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab: Egg Bath

Take crab from the egg mixture and dip one side into the flour mixture:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab: Covering the Bottom Side

Flip crab over and place the other side in the flour mixture:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab: Covering the Other Side

Make sure both sides are covered well by picking it up and inspecting both sides:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab: Coated with Flour

Place on a plate and repeat until you’ve coated all of your crabs:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab: Ready to Fry

When oil is hot place crab bottom side down and fry for 2-3 minutes:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab: Frying the Bottoms

Once bottoms are lightly browned flip the crab over and fry the other side for 1-2 minutes:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab: Frying the Tops

Fry until both sides are lightly browned:

Pan Fried Soft Shell Crab

Just as when you steam crabs they’ll turn red and you can see it through the cooked “batter” when they’re done. Remove from the oil and let drain on a paper towel lined plate for a couple of minutes and then serve.

Notes: You can do this for shrimp too. I like to serve these with seared scallops along the side.

Maryland is a Hopping Place!

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In the past week we’ve had an earthquake AND a hurricane. I don’t know about you, but that’s a little too hopping for me! This is the second earthquake we’ve had in a year or so, though this one was more what I always imagined (and feared) a quake to be. We get hurricanes and tropical storms from time to time, so it’s not unheard of, but it was a bit nerve wracking to say the least, especially within mere days of each other.

The earthquake flat out terrified Alexis. Jamison was working away at his desk, I was working out and she was doing her own little thing upstairs by herself. I felt the hairs on the back of my arm stand up and I was confused because I couldn’t figure out why exactly that was happening. As I was studying my arm I felt/heard a small rumbling and thought Alexis was jumping around upstairs so I sent Jamison up to check on her since he was closer. I decided to go examine the issue too and was halfway across the floor when the house started to shake in earnest. We’re talking full out walls moving, floor bouncing, light fixtures swaying, pictures moving around on the wall quake here. Surprisingly I wasn’t scared. The last one freaked me out, but this one I was calm. I was however worried about Alexis because I knew this wasn’t going to be her cup of tea. I called to Jamison and told him to keep going to get to Alexis and he did.

After our little quake it took about an hour or so to calm Alexis down…She was that scared. She is still a little twitchy about the whole thing. She asks me several times a day if I can feel the floor moving or the ground shaking because she’s afraid it’s going to happen again. I keep assuring her she’s fine, and while I can’t promise her that we won’t have another earthquake, she needs to stop worrying about it so much because I’ll take care of her. She gives me one of those looks that clearly indicates she thinks I’m nuts, but she settles down and goes on about her day.

In Lex’s mind earthquake equals unmitigated horror. Bring on a hurricane/tropical storm however and after a little explanation of what is happening and how it works the kid kicks in to all out explore mode!

At first she was uneasy about the storm especially when I started moving things in to the garage from the patio so they wouldn’t blow around. I quipped on Twitter that I wouldn’t resent battening down the hatches as much if I had an ocean view to go along with the trouble, but Alexis wasn’t quite sure why I was moving all of the things. I kept telling her we were far enough inland that we would get a lot of wind and rain, but the big stuff would happen on the coast, but that we still needed to be prepared just in case.

On Saturday she wasn’t too sure about this, equating hurricanes with tornadoes, especially as the wind picked up. She thought we were going to have to sit in the basement all day Saturday in to early Sunday morning. She kept fretting, something that Alexis is exceptionally good at much like her father, but finally she calmed. Saturday afternoon, after reassuring her quite a bit, Jamison finally showed her a weather map and explained how the storm worked. Once he was finished with that I took her outside and showed her how the clouds were swirling. From that point on she was hooked!

As you can see in the picture above she’s a happy little “weather girl” with her head covered from the sprinkles. She decided to stay on the patio for a while and I was ok with that. All we had was a lot of wind at that point so I let her be and explore.

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She ran around on the patio testing the wind speed and direction for about an hour. I finally had to make her come in and put on rain boots when it started raining and then she headed back out with her wellies, sweater and umbrella and kept up her little exploration.

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We never had any thunder or lightening, just wind and rain. When it got dark I made her come in for good. She was disappointed that the storm passed during the night. By the time she got up on Sunday morning we had a few sprinkles and light wind. The worst of Irene had passed on up the coast to wreak her havoc there. Luckily we were spared any damage despite the wind being a little fierce here and there.

I love that Alexis looks at all this stuff as a learning opportunity and it amuses me that she seems as drawn to the ocean, its power and all things aquatic just as I am. I’ve sat through Isabel back in 2003 when we lived closer to the Chesapeake Bay and that was enough for me, but the experience is there. Alexis doesn’t remember that storm, or the tropical storm that blew through a few years ago either, but I have a feeling she’ll remember Irene for a while and if not I’ll be happy to share the the pictures with her and tell her about her windy/rainy adventures when she gets older.

She is so my child.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Canning, Preserving and Freezing, Oh My!

It’s that time of year again…The time to save some of your harvest for use during the winter. My three favorite methods include canning, preserving and freezing. I also dry things like fruit or tomatoes from time to time too.

Living on the side of a mountain has its perks. It’s cooler up here than down in the valley, even though we’ve had some miserably hot days this summer all together, we tend to get a bit more rain and you can’t beat the view! Well the view isn’t really a perk I suppose, but it’s enjoyable none the less. I’m an ocean/water girl by nature, but I have to say this view has really, really grown on me.

The bad thing about living on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere Central Maryland is the wildlife! Daily residents in our yard include ground hogs, who are voracious little rats, rabbits, who are pretty voracious themselves, deer, who well are pretty voracious too, along with a sundry other creatures (including a few SNAKES eek!) that all mill about. The thing these beasties have in common? They love to eat anything that I plant in my “garden”!

Meet one of our resident groundhogs:

One of our resident groundhogs: AKA Satan

Or Satan as I have dubbed him. Sure he looks all sweet and cute sitting there munching on rotten apples that have fallen from the tree, which I’m more than happy to share with him and his little fuzzy family, but he’s really an evil little thief of massive proportions! Don’t let his charming little demeanor fool you…This guy is trouble!

Despite having numerous tomato plants this year all of the ripe ones have been eaten by the deer, ground hogs and rabbits before I have gotten to enjoy them. Luckily we have a few nice Farmer’s Markets around the area each week as well as a nearby orchard that has a multitude of various fruits and vegetables so I’ve been buying my tomatoes from them.

I have beautiful tomatoes:

Green Tomato

But once this sucker starts turning the least bit red one of my yard critters will end up eating it before I get the chance. Excuse me while I grumble a moment about evil animals…..

Where was I?

Tomatoes!

The only type of tomatoes I’ve grown this year they haven’t munched is my cherry tomatoes:

Cherry Tomatoes

And let me tell you these little guys are good, but sometimes you want something a little bigger than these little gems.

Tomato Sauce

For the past few years toward the end of summer I’ve purchased bushels upon bushels of what they call “second tomatoes”. What are second tomatoes? They’re the tomatoes that grow into a weird shape, or have a blemish here, or a spot there. There is nothing wrong with these tomatoes, but some people can’t see past their “ugly” (And I use this term sarcastically…Who cares what it looks like as long as it tastes ok??!!?!) exterior. You may have to cut a spot out here or there, but they are still perfectly good tomatoes to eat, can or even freeze. Don’t let the look of something fool you. You know like the groundhog we mentioned above! ;oP

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has a bevy of information if you’re interested in preserving your own food. They have detailed information on the methods you need to use and their instructions on canning is invaluable. The recipes, the techniques and everything are right there. My mom got their “cookbook” a few years ago and I’ve used the soup out of that thing! I use their water bath method to can my tomatoes and tomato sauce.

I also like to take fresh fruit and make fruit fillings for desserts during the winter by freezing them for use later. So far this summer I’ve froze several jars of peach, cherry and blueberry fillings. It’s extremely easy to do these, you just cook them with a little sugar until the berries are soft. You remove the fruit from the heat, let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) and then place the mixture in a wide mouthed quart sized glass jar with an inch of head room at the top, put the lid on and then freeze them.

How easy is that?

To use the fillings you just take them out of the freezer, let them thaw and then you can make pie, cake, pastries, sauce, ice cream, etc. The blueberries just go in whole, with the juice and zest of a lemon, the cherries just have to be pitted and the peaches peeled, pitted and mashed. As I mentioned above you add a little sugar and cook until the fruit is soft. These little fillings are pretty easy to do and taste better than anything you’d ever buy at the grocery store.

Another favorite thing this time of year for me is pickling cucumbers! These cucumbers have such a lovely, crisp, fresh taste and as their name implies they make fabulous pickles! I’m going to share with you a really simple, quick refrigerator pickle that are simply fabulous! Let’s get to it shall we?

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

What You’ll Need For The Refrigerator Dill Pickles:
1/4 cup of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 teaspoons of organic cane sugar
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional)
2 tablespoons of dried dill
~OR~
1 bunch of fresh dill
Pickling cucumbers (Note: These are the smaller, crisp cucumbers that are abundant during the summer.)
1 1/2 cups of vinegar (Note: I like apple cider vinegar for this, but you can use plain white vinegar instead.)
Water

Place peppercorns, sea salt, sugar, garlic and dill in a quart sized canning jar. Slice cucumbers and add to the jar until you reach 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Pour in vinegar and then fill up the rest of the jar with water. Give the jar a shake to mix up the ingredients and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.

Pickles last about 2 months in the fridge.

Notes: You could also add in some red or Vidalia onion strips to the mix as well.