Well my pets, a lot has been happening around here, just a few short days ago, this was the status of my kitchen.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that this isn’t my kitchen, it is in fact, my dining room, playing host to my most treasured possessions.
There’s my kitchen table and all of my pantry items. If your dream was to see the contents of my cabinets, I feel sorry for you, but consider me your genie. There they are.
That picture makes me shudder. But it had to be done. You know how sometimes you don’t even know how dirty something was until it has been cleaned? The kitchen needed it bad. I pulled out the stove and did the floor underneath it. Same for the fridge. Did you know you are supposed to be able to see through the window on your oven door? I cleaned that too. It’s glorious. And now, things are back to normal, thank goodness.
Totally back to normal.
This weekend was exhausting. I feel like a puddle. I ate a lot, and I ate very well, and I made almost none of it. There was book club up in Salem, Thai food with one of my favorite fams on Friday, birthday lunch for my Gram on Sunday at Neptune, and dinner with a friend back in town from New York Sunday night. There was some excellent food and lots of wine and not enough sleep. And in between all that eating, I developed some serious soccer fever over here. Soccer is mostly watched an adored by those who have played it, and I sort of get that. There is not a ton of scoring and it can sometimes end in a tie, but it is a beautiful game, and the boys ain’t bad to look at either. I love that the guys exchange banners and all those adorable tiny people who escort the players onto the field. How excited must they be? The Copa Mundial is soccer in its purest form and I am watching as much of it as possible (which at three games a day is really rotten for productivity.) Another thing I like is the accents on so many of the announcers. But those horns that sound like millions of angry bees and stay in your head for hours after the game ends even through the tv? Who’s idea were those? Thanks, but I prefer my soccer without them. Especially since there is often such great chants and music in the stands by groups of fans that we can’t hear. One other thing I don’t like, what is with the particularly tight jerseys on some of these teams? Never a good look. That is all.
Also: Go Celts! Beat LA.
All this to say I am actually writing about a creation from last weekend. I can’t figure out where time has gone.
Soft shell crab season is short but oh so sweet, and I try to take advantage while it lasts. My favorite way to cook them is to fry in tempura batter. It is really quick and easy and you can’t really go wrong. Except just a warning. If you have a fish market close by, you may want to ask them to clean the crabs for you. It is not hard, but involves cutting the face off a live creature and said creature gets mad, so it’s a little creepy. Totally worth it, but you may not think so.
I had brioche in the freezer that I made a couple of weeks ago, and an avocado and a spring onion in the fridge, and a dish was born. I made a quick salad with avocado, very thinly sliced spring onion, which is nice and mild but still has onion flavor, and a couple of tablespoons of ginger miso dressing.
I made a tempura batter with equal parts flour and club soda, and I toasted two pieces of brioche-you could use a crusty white bread like ciabatta or the like instead if you didn’t have brioche, but the brioche was really awesome. Try to get yourself some. Or make it! I fried the soft shells in really hot oil in the wok, it takes no more than five minutes. They should look like this. (Recipe note: a brand new bottle of club soda will bubble furiously and evaporate more for a thicker batter like the one in this photo, a not quite so new bottle will make a thinner batter-you will be able to see the crab through the batter when fried. This photo below is from soft shells I made a couple of weeks ago, and I prefer the result to the batter from this time around.)
Brioche on the plate, softshell on the brioche, salad on the softshell. I ate one stack and it was so good I went back and made a second.
I suspected this would be good, but it was just one of those dishes that was unexpected perfection. I was so excited I called my dad immediately. Sometimes things just work out better than expected.
One of these would have made a perfect appetizer, and though soft shells are a little pricey if you are trying to serve a crowd, they are a nice splurge for the occasional dinner for two. And one softshell is a good appetizer size. If you wanted to forego the bread these would also be great over a slaw I think.
Tempura Soft-shell Crabs with Avocado Salad (serves 2 as an appetizer)
2 thick slices brioche or other crusty bread
For the crabs:
2 soft shell crabs, cleaned
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup club soda or beer (a darker beer with have more flavor in the batter, choose accordingly)
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper (feel free to add some cayenne as well)
Unflavored oil for deep frying-I used canola, grape seed or peanut would also work well
For the avocado salad:
1 ripe avocado pitted, peeled and diced into half-inch cubes
1/4 cup very thinly sliced spring onion (or substitute scallions or shallots) soaked quickly in cold water to remove the bite, and drained
2 tbl Ginger-Miso dressing
black pepper to taste
Make the avocado salad: combine the diced avocado, spring onion, dressing and black pepper in the small bowl and set aside.
Make the tempura batter: whisk together flour, salt, pepper and cayenne, if using, in a small bowl, and then whisk in club soda or beer, set aside. Heat 3 inches of oil in a heavy deep pot or a wok (a wok will heat up faster and require less oil) over medium-high heat until very hot and shimmering. Submerge crabs in tempura batter to thoroughly coat. Test readiness of oil by adding a small amount of the batter to the oil, if it bubbles furiously and crisps up right away, the oil is ready. Add the crabs to the hot oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until they are just lightly golden, you may need to turn them over once if they are not frying evenly. When cooked, remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels. In the meantime, as the crabs are frying, toast the brioche.
To plate: put the brioche on a plate and lay the crab on top of it. Spoon half the avocado salad over the top, and then garnish with some of the crispy tempura bits from the oil if you would like.