If you’re driving down the “main drag” here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia (aka Route 13), one of the best things you can do for yourself is to turn off the beaten path. All roads lead to the water eventually – seaside or bayside. It doesn’t matter. Chances are you’ll stumble on a seafood shack in your travels. And this time of year, they’re all sure to have fresh soft shell crabs. A delicacy here, as well as around the world.

My favorite spot is Martin’s Crabhouse in Saxis, VA. It’s about a 20 minute drive for me on Chincoteague, but when it comes to crabs – it’s always worth the trip. You’ll usually find two old salts sitting on the front porch of the crab shack, no doubt talking about fish tales. One of the younger guys inside will shuffle over to the peeling tables and fish out a dozen for me – wriggling as they’re pulled out of the water and placed in the box. It really doesn’t get fresher than that.

Up until last week, breading and pan-frying was my go-to prepare a soft shell crab. But, after putting them on the grill…I fear I can never go back. First off, it was easier and way less mess. Always a win! But the flavor. THE FLAVOR. Sweet, tender crab with a heady dose of smokiness from the grill. I brushed with fresh garlic herb butter while cooking, which helped them to not stick to the grill – as well as impart more wonderful flavor. A few minutes on the grill, and they plump up to pure perfection.

I wanted to pair them with pasta, so I made a quick scampi sauce using the usual suspects – butter, garlic, lemon, white wine. And, a few cherry tomatoes and basil for a little extra flair and color. Was just enough to make the pasta moist, and paired perfectly with the crab – just making it’s flavors sing a little louder.

Move over, Shrimp Scampi. There’s a new kid on the block…


It’s that time of year here on Chincoteague. When a friend or neighbor will knock on your door, and present you with a Ziploc bag full of freshly caught scallops, soft shell crabs, drum fish, shrimp…whatever happens to be good on the docks or our little roadside seafood markets that day. It’s pretty much my favorite time of year on our little island, aside from Pony Penning…

So when my BFF stopped by last week with these gorgeous scallops, it made me feel one step closer to full-blown summer. I’d also happened to restock my supply of Geechie Boy grits last week too. While shrimp & grits is a regular on our menu this time of year, I thought – why not scallops instead?

Seasoned them simply with some of my homemade seasoning salt and pepper, gave them a quick sear. Happened to some fresh spinach on hand that needed to be used, so I sauteed that with a little bit of garlic and champagne vinegar – which did a great job of deglazing the pan and bringing all that awesome flavor into the dish. I think kale or chard would also be wonderful in place of the spinach!

The grits are a perfect accompaniment, because they kind of take care of themselves on the stove while you get the scallops squared away. Also, grits are so versatile when it comes to different flavors. I wanted something with a little bit of a coastal twist – so I stirred in some Old Bay right before serving. Life changing, ya’ll…

Served with a lovely local Rosé and a salad, it was the perfect way to break-in dinners on the back porch season for us! 

So, this sous-vide thing…have you heard of it? Yes? No? Maybe? When asked to describe it, I tell people that I like to think of it as a really bad ass Crockpot. Basically, you season your cut of beef and then vaccum seal it – it’s then plopped in a water bath held at a precise temperature by the doohickey called the immersion circulator. So, the item comes to just the perfect temperature for whatever it is…then, is held there until you’re ready to serve it.

I first learned of this method of preparation years ago, back in my religious watching of Top Chef days. Back then, this method of “cooking” was reserved for fancy chefs in fancy kitchens…as the apparatus required was super expensive.

Well, times they are a changin’ – and you can get a pretty decent model for $100 on Amazon, if you keep your eyes peeled for a sale. They’re about the size of a large curling iron, so are convenient for storage sakes. And then for the water bath, all you need is a large stockpot. It clips right to the side – bada bing!

And time isn’t an issue. In fact, tough cuts like this eye of round benefit from a long cook cycle. I did this one for 24 hours. The connective tissue has time to break down, creating a roast that can be cut with a fork…but the roast still stays rare. It’s really quite mind-blowing.

After it’s soaked for the appropriate amount of time, a quick sear in a raging hot cast iron skillet is in order. I’ve also turned to my trusty kitchen torch, which is always handy in the kitchen. The grill is also an option – but again, just make sure it’s REALLY hot. Just a couple of minutes on each side, to give  it a little color.

I like doing large roasts, like this entire eye of the round – or a pork loin. We’ll enjoy it for dinner one night…then reinvent the leftovers all week in different dishes. Perfect for this time of year when we’re scooting out the door to baseball practice or some other obligation that fills the schedule up every week!

So, if you’re on the fence about one – I say do it! I got mine a couple of Christmases ago, and have just really gotten into using it in the past couple of months. It really is so versatile. I don’t even want to tell you what it can do for a poached egg. Life changing.

Paella is one of those dishes that was always on my “to make” list, but I just never got around to. Honestly, I don’t know why I waited so long to give it a whirl. Chicken, spicy chorizo, shrimp, clams, white wine, saffron – all cooked together, with a hefty portion of rice acting as a bed to absorb all that goodness.

I love one dish meals to begin with. But, the flavor that comes out of this simple – yet sophisticated dish, is un-paralleled.

Yeah, I know it’s traditionally made with mussels. But, that’s something we don’t come by too often here on the Eastern Shore. They tend prefer rocky coastlines, and we have alot of marshy muddy coast here. That being said, I love this Eastern Shore twist of the littleneck clams. Juicy and tender – they add wonderful flavor to the paella. That I’m not so sure you’d get with mussels to begin with…

I’ve never had a paella pan (don’t believe in uni-taskers), but if you have a heavy dutch oven – you’re all set! The good folks at Le Creuset were so kind to send me this gorgeous Mariner Star Dutch oven a couple of weeks ago. I love it’s nautical look and feel, it looks right at home in my island kitchen.

Oh yeah, by the way – they have one to give away to one lucky reader! Details can be found at the end of the post.A quick sear of the chicken and chorizo, followed by a saute of onion and garlic. Tomatoes, wine, chicken stock saffron, and bay leaf create a rich broth in which the rice cooks, along with the chicken and chorizo, in the oven. The seafood is added for the last few minutes, so it doesn’t get overcooked in the process.

To attain the soccarat, or the crispy edge on the bottom of your paella, just takes a few minutes on the stovetop once the paella is removed from the oven. And trust me, it’s worth it. Don’t skip this step.

An easy garnish of a lemon wedge and some fresh parsley, a green salad, and a bottle of wine – and you’ve got a lovely meal fit for company!

Le Creuset has graciously offered to giveaway one of the Limited Edition Mariner Star 5.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven to one lucky reader. What’s your favorite thing to make in a dutch oven? Leave a comment telling us what that is, here on this post, to be entered to win. Winner will be chosen on February 10th at 12 PM, via random number generator.

WINNING COMMENT WAS #46! Congratulations, Sarah – I hope you enjoy the dutch oven, and make many treasured family recipes in it over the years. Thank you again, Le Creuset!

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Disclaimer: I received a 5.5 Quart Round Dutch Oven from Le Creuset for review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.