Marc Cassel, owner of 20 Feet Seafood Joint in East Dallas, threw an interesting post up on his Facebook page this week.
Holy Flying Decapod Crustaceans Batman! A few dozen soft-shell crabs (can I get a Hallelujah?) will be boarding a red-eye flight from the Chesapeake to Big D this evening, then chauffeured tomorrow morning to East Dallas. Stand by for updates on their journey to your mouth! Get down.
I couldn't wait. I called for my own update. After spending a significant portion of my life with a view of the Chesapeake Bay I know these beauties all too well. Get excited.
If you're new to soft-shells, don't fret. Just be aware that they tend to freak a lot of people out -- at least as first. Cassel told me he had his first soft-shell crab sandwich in Annapolis.
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"I didn't even know what it was," he said as he described an entire crustacean, body, guts and all, deep fried and tucked between two slices of Wonder bread. "I was freaking out because I didn't know you could eat the whole thing."
The thing is you can, and you should, eat the whole thing. If you've ever tried to pick your way through a bushel of blue crabs, you know what a pain in the ass the affair can be. When the crabs molt their shells, they're left with a delicate skin that renders the entire thing edible. Cooks simply cut off the face with a pair of kitchen shears, tear out the gills, and bread and fry the poor bastards. They're delicious.
Of course, soft-shells are available anywhere blue crabs swim freely, and you'll find them on a few menus around Dallas. Most of the time they're frozen, though, and while they're still tasty, there's nothing like crabs pulled right from the water.
Cassel still hasn't figured out what he's going to do with the critters but he's leaning towards poboys. Whatever he musters, if it's on par with the rest of the stuff that emerges from his deep-fryer, it's going to be good. And if he sells enough of them they'll remain on his menu, possibly for the rest of the season.