Mid-May on Chesapeake Bay means soft shell blue crabs, one of my favorite times of the year.
I headed out to my local seafood wholesaler this morning to get a dozen soft shells for the annual family dinner - it is kind of like a holiday for us. Sad to say when I got to the marina the shop was closed up, the shedding tanks were dry and stacked off to the side. Normally the tanks would be full of water pumped out of the nearby river, filled with "peeler" crabs about to shed their hard shells. Workers would watch the tanks around the clock, pulling out the crabs as soon as they shed their shells, putting the soft shell crabs on ice. I've bought my soft shells at this place, located next to a seafood restaurant on a little basin off the Lynnhaven River, for years. For $25 you could pick your dozen crabs right out the shedding tanks. I don't remember any cash register, receipts or sales tax. Cash and carry. That was a pretty good deal, $25 for a dozen when they were selling at the local market for $7 each. But for whatever reason they were not running a shedding operation this year.
So I headed to another longtime seafood shop nearby, only to find a brand new drugstore in its place. Finally I found this year's supply of soft shells at the local grocery store seafood counter. They were "whales", the large sized soft shells, for $4.00 each. (There are five sizes of soft shells - from largest to smallest they are whales, jumbos, primes, hotels and mediums. Crabs from 4 to 4 and 1/2 inches from point to point are the most popular with the tourists, hence the name "hotels." Locals prefer the jumbos or whales. I'll take any size I can get.)
I'll cook up our crabs tomorrow with a recipe I found a few years ago in Bon Appetit for Corn Meal Crusted Soft Shells (above). My presentation certainly won't be as nice, but I think they'll taste pretty good. We'll serve it with rice, a black bean/roasted corn salsa and a nice chardonnay. I think we'll do ok.
Speaking of local seafood, here is the new logo for the seafood marketing group in the Outer Banks. Pretty nice. They are pushing locally caught seafood, supporting your local fishermen. I'll buy local any chance I can. Here is a story about the campaign on The Island Free Press, the very nice online newspaper for Hatteras Island.
I don't know about sailing tomorrow, forecast right now is for 70% chance of thunderstorms. I'll just have to wait and see what it is like when I get up in the morning.