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.

Fall has arrived here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia – which means, oyster harvests are in full swing in the waters surrounding our little peninsula. From the salts on the seaside, to the sweeter guys harvested out of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers on the western shore – we have such an amazing variety of oysters in Virginia.

A couple of weeks ago the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce hosted it’s 45th Annual Chincoteague Oyster Festival – an event that’s anticipated all year long. Fried oysters, steamed oysters, raw oysters…a true celebration of the briny bivalve.

I was running around taking photos to earn my keep, in exchange for my ticket. But, I managed to tote over my little portable grill and snag a few oysters to throw on it, to get some photos to share of this super easy way to prepare them with you guys.

Oysters on the half, brushed with a simple garlic-herb butter while on the grill. Couldn’t get easier, delicious, or more impressive. If shucking isn’t your thing, you can steam them until they pop open, and then pry off the top shell – the garlic butter will still keep them plump and juicy.

If you’re really lucky, like I was on this particular day, you may find a tiny friend lurking inside your oyster. Pea crabs are considered a delicacy by many around here, tender yet slightly crunchy little crustacean parasites that like to set up shop inside our oysters. We eat them, but if it’s not your thing – by all means, serve them their final eviction notice before enjoying.

A few minutes on the grill is all you need, just until you see the butter start to sizzle. A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice to finish.  Enjoy them hot, and be prepared to reload the grill. You can’t eat just one!

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…