It’s soft shell crab season! Fresh from Maryland and environs! This is a truly simple recipe.
2 softshell crabs (per person). Be sure they are healthy and the fishmonger has cleaned them.
Handful of thin asparagus per person – I used 9 stalks, I could have easily doubled this! (In fact, I may go back and make up more asparagus in a few…)
Low salt vegetable stock (home made or reliably-boxed). I go with low salt because the crabs will add salt.
Cracked black pepper
Twist of lemon
Mix equal portions of stock and water, and set to boil. When this comes to a boil, reduce to simmer, and add the asparagus (trim off ends and cut the remaining stalk portions in half, first). In another minute or two, add the crabs. Add the pepper. After two or three minutes, flip the crabs over if you are using a shallow pan for this (as I was). After about five minutes of crabs simmering in this, pull them and the asparagus out, and serve, providing wedges of lemon for the twist at the table.
With true (cleaned) soft shell crabs, all is edible. The tomale is green, as in a lobster, and has a citrusy taste of its own. The roe may be reddish or blackish, or somewhere in between.
By the way, if what you have are thick stalks of asparagus, just put them in the broth earlier. When done, asparagus should be flexible, but still have texture and body, and even a little subtle crunch.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Sources: Asparagus: Farmer’s market in Litchfield, CT. Crabs: Darryl’s Other Brother, in Otis, MA. I was up in Massachusetts on my land there today to weed my own asparagus patch, check on the chestnut trees (I see at least 5 of the 7 that survived last year, but it probably remains early), and attempt to start a couple ginkgo tree cuttings from a sapling I had removed from my Connecticut yard).