Long ago, many years before Snookie, before MTV, even before the internet, I was going to the Jersey Shore. It has always been a special, sacred place for me, and the one constant in my ever-changing early life. Summer after summer, I would head there with my parents, sister, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and glamorous older cousins. Our family and extended family would take up large portions of the beach, and back in those days, I always felt like I was a part of something greater than myself. As my sister once said, everyone who I have ever loved has stuck their feet in that ocean. No matter where I was in life, the ocean would heal me, ground me, give me perspective.
Years passed, my grandmother and her brothers sold their beach houses (which we stupidly didn’t buy), and my days of free beach vacations at the Jersey Shore sadly ended. I have been fortunate enough to travel a bit in my life, and I have been to some amazing, beautiful, world-renown beaches in places like Saint Barth’s and Monte Carlo. But no beach ever stacked up to anything on the Jersey Shore in my heart. Yes, the water is the exact shade as when you rinse out many different colors on your paintbrush in the same old water cup for too long…sort of a murky greenish brown. Yes, the beaches can get loud and crowded. None of this matters to me. But that’s love, isn’t it?
My sister-in-law and brother-in-law generously and bravely offered to host our family of five for four nights at their beautiful beach house this past week. Watching my kids fight the waves, ride the rides, and enjoy the local cuisine brought such joy to my heart, and I am so grateful for my in-laws hospitality. The smiles I saw on my kids’ faces will never be forgotten.
But enough of this mushy stuff, on to the food!
I am a big seafood lover, so I am sure it is a surprise that I’ve never tried soft-shell crabs. I’ve had crabs in every other possible incarnation, but never soft-shell. I suppose they intimidated me for some reason, but they shouldn’t have. What a great thrill it is for me to discover a new food that I love! I cannot wait to try this recipe for from Cooking Light (April 2003) Sauteed Soft-Shell Crabs at home. It couldn’t look any easier! I might serve it with Dawn’s Awesome Sauce, but the crabs I ate this week at Busch’s in Sea Isle, NJ were so phenomenal as is, they didn’t need much help.
Sautéed Soft-Shell Crabs
Here is a basic recipe for cooking soft-shell crabs. You can vary it by adding cayenne pepper, garlic powder, or other seasonings to the flour.
- 4 (3 1/2-ounce) soft-shell crabs, cleaned
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon butter
Sprinkle each crab with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge each crab in flour, turning to coat; shake off excess flour.
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add crabs to pan, top sides down; cook 3 minutes. Turn crabs over; cook an additional 2 minutes.
Last night we went to the Ocean City boardwalk where I was reunited with one of my very first Happy Foods, one of my earliest “wow!” food memories, Kohr Bros Frozen Custard. I have wondered recently, upon eating local soft-serve ice cream, why it just never tasted as good as I remembered it as a child, and now I know why: tons of fake ingredients, the nutritional equivalent of a Twinkie. Frozen custard, on the other hand, contains actual milk, cream, sugar and eggs. We won’t pretend it’s healthy, but at least it passes for real food.
I loved my little break from reality this week, but I am eager to put on Mom Mom’s apron and get back into the kitchen again.