I made the first batch of chili this season last Sunday. Usually the first night we eat it, we’ll have tortilla chips and all the fixings to go along with. But on the second night I always make cornbread. And the third night we usually make chili dogs, but I digress.

The cornbread. I’ve been making this recipe for as long as I can remember – it’s delicious and moist, and holds up well extremely well when dunked in thick chili or soups. Cornbread is one of those things that is fun to experiment with additions – cheese, chilis, different herbs and spices. Mix it up a little bit.

You guys know me, usually my favorite way to mix it up is by adding Old Bay – and it was a good call on my part. The savory spicy flavor of the seasoning was a wonderful contrast to the sweet nature of the cornbread. And it always looks so pretty sprinkled on top of anything.

I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first cornbread post here on Tide & Thyme – kinda embarrassing, right? If you’re looking for the dense, sweet “wet” cornbread commonly found here on the Shore (also known as spoonbread) – I’m working on it, but not quite there yet. If anyone has any favorite recipes for that style, I’d love to see them.

But for now here is my go-to sturdy staple, enjoy!

Hey y’all! It was a whirlwind summer spending most of our time out on the boat, which led into a whirlwind fall with school starting, and soccer, and Scouts. We certainly made the most of it, but now that the weather has finally turned to fallish behavior, I’m excited to be in the kitchen more often.

I’ve had this one hanging around in draft posts for months now. Figured I should take the opportunity to share this recipe from over the summer that we really enjoyed, before I delve into the heavier cold weather stuff…

I’ve long been a fan of things prepared in a foil packet, we’ll make them quite a bit when out on the boat or camping. They’re easy, tasty, and offer an easy cleanup – a trifecta of awesomeness when it comes to diining in the open outdoors. But this one. This one really takes it to a whole new level on the flavor front, guys.

Composed of ingredients that are plentiful here in my neck of the woods, but also readily available elsewhere – tender littleneck clams, shrimp, sweet corn on the cob, baby red potatoes, smoked sausage, and a few lemon slices. Sealed up in a piece of aluminum foil and tossed on a hot grill, the juices that are released as the items cook are sealed in, creating a perfectly prepared packet.

A pretty heavy clambake, with minimal effort and time.

Soft-shell season has arrived here along the Eastern Shore. All up and down the Chesapeake Bay, hardworking waterman are tending to shedding tables watching crabs bust out of their old shells, then pulling them from the water while they’re still soft and pliable, and shipped to crab connoisseurs all over the world.

Handy Seafood, located in Salisbury and Crisfield, helps them get where they need to go. They’ve been around forever. Whenever I look to an favorite old Chesapeake Bay cookbook – they ALL mention Handy. And they are still getting nods in publications – they were just mentioned in Food & Wine magazine this month. So when they reached out to me about sponsoring a post, I felt honored to be working with such a beloved local company – and jumped at the chance!

While I’m usually going straight to the source to get my crabs, I know many of you guys can’t. If that’s the case, you definitely need to check out Handy’s online store. They ship chilled and frozen crabs just about anywhere! They arrive fully cleaned and dressed, so all you have to do is figure out how you want to enjoy them. Which, was a nice change of pace for me.  But, if you do have to clean your own – click here for a great video on how-to (featuring yours truly).

They’ve got a ton of great recipes on their website, but I went with an old favorite that is found in John Shield’s Chesapeake Bay Cooking. The recipe was submitted to John by the guys in the crabhouse at Handy back in the 80’s. So, I thought it would be cool to bring the Beer Battered Soft Shells to the party.  If anyone knows how to prepare a soft shell – it’s the guys who work with them all day long. Am I right?

The batter is easy to whip up, and the crabs fry up beautifully. Perfectly golden and crunchy on the outside, tender sweet crab on the inside. I put them on a sandwich with a little tartar sauce, but I think they’d be excellent on a simple salad as well. And what an impressive presentation they make!

Summer is here on the Shore, get out there and enjoy everything that it has to offer.

Beer-Battered Soft Shells

1 1/2 cups flour (divided)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp Old Bay
1 (12 oz) beer
6 soft-shell crabs (cleaned)
vegetable oil, for frying
tartar sauce and lemon wedges

Mix 1 1/4 cup flour, salt, baking powder, paprika, and Old Bay in a small bowl. Mix in the beer and whisk until smooth. Let batter sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours to thicken.

Add remaining flour to a pie plate or dish and lightly dust softs with flour, shaking off any excess. Set aside.

Pour oil into a deep skillet to a depth of about 1 inch and heat to 375.

Gently dip each crab into the batter to coat evently, use a fork to lift out – give a few taps to let excess batter drip off. Gently slide the crabs into the hot oil, being careful to not overcrowd pan. Fry to golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side.

Remove to paper towel lined tray to drain briefly.

Serve immediately with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.

Source: adapted from Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Sheilds

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Handy Seafood. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Another Friday, another crush. The sun has gone into hiding again, and it’s been raining all day. And I have a child with chicken pox (wtf, right?). And we still haven’t been out on the boat yet. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling a sunny and fruity drink on this #CrushFridayVA. So, I kind of stepped out of the box for this week’s cocktail.

A simple syrup is infused with heady kick of fresh ginger flavor after a short steeping period. Which is then combined with freshly squeezed lemon juice, vodka, a splash of triple sec, and a bit of bubbly in the form of some ginger ale to round out the flavor.

It’s something different for this rainy evening we’re having here on the island. Little league games are already cancelled tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to a lazy morning with my guys. Hope everyone has a great weekend!