Clean and Cook Soft Shell Crabs – They’re In Season

We visited a small fresh seafood market in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland over the weekend.  The place was there twenty years ago when we biked through town en route to Huntingfields, the farm where my parents lived for many years.  I was pleasantly surprised to see they sold soft shell crabs for $5.00 each.  In Potomac, Maryland, they were selling for $9.99 each. What a difference. I immediately bought some.

When I opened the package at home, excited to begin to bread and sauté them, I noticed the claws were wiggling. Ahhh!!  I had two choices. Ditch and order carry out. Kill, clean and prepare.

You will be happy to know that while I am an animal lover – I chose to embrace my complete chef persona, I apologized and praised the crab for the feast we’d soon have and looked on Google for how to clean soft shells.  Dumb me.  Not every seafood market offers to clean them for you (as mine did – and priced midway between the $5 and $10 range).

So here’s what to do.  First, flip the crab over.  Gently lift the shell and remove the fibrous gills on each side.  You’ll need to scrape away any yellow goo mustard fat that appears in the underbelly. Then, there is an area I call the “key” in the middle of the bottom side of the crab, flip that up and cut it off.   Finally cut off the eyes and mouth.  Do it quickly so you don’t have to think about it too much. That’s what I did. Be sure the rinse it off and put on ice while you do the others. Keep on ice and refrigerate if you aren’t using them right away.

Now you can begin to cook the soft shells any way that suits you.  I simply put about a half cup of flour and added 3 tablespoons of Cajun seasonings to a plastic baggie; then I added the 3 crabs.  Increase if you have more.  Meanwhile, I heated ¼ to ½ cup of oil in a pan and waited until it was hot but not burning.  I added the crabs, cooking for several minutes on each side.  When they turn a nice orange caramel color they are done.  Drizzle with chopped scallions and parsley.

What Language Is Your Food Speaking?

A Body on Fire:  The Fat-Inflammation Connection

Most of us are familiar with inflammation.  It is the body’s natural defense system against infections, irritations, toxins, and other foreign molecules.   A specific cascade of events occurs in which the body’s white blood cells and specific chemicals mobilize to protect you from foreign invaders.  Classic signs are pain, swelling, and redness.  In fighting various ailments such as a sore throat,  rash, or migraine headache, inflammation is a good thing.   However, the natural balance of the immune system, which produces just enough inflammation to keep infection, allergens and toxins under control, can get disrupted by various foods.  When this occurs, the immune system shifts into a chronic state of alarm or inflammation, spreading a smoldering fire throughout the body.  This fire in the heart causes heart disease, in the brain causes dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, in the whole body causes cancer.  New research links obesity and inflammation.  Being overweight promotes inflammation and inflammation promotes obesity in a terrible, vicious cycle.  Cooling off excess inflammation is critical to your wellness .  Avoid or cut back on foods that promote inflammation -sugars, trans fats and hydrogenated fats, alcohol, refined grains, red meats, commercially-processed foods, and artificial food additives.  Include in your diet foods that will boost your immune health and help control inflammation:  berries, omega-3 fatty acids, extra virgin olive oil, turmeric, ginger, green tea, mushrooms, pineapple, papaya, avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and sweet potatoes.

Fats:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

There are essentially three different kinds of fat:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Healthy fats enhance brainpower and help you lose weight, and bad fats drain your brain.  “Good” fats are fats that turn on the genes in your DNA that increase your metabolism, help you burn fat more quickly, become healthier, and promote brain health.  Examples of foods containing good fats are salmon, nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocados, flaxseed, and coconuts.  “Bad” fats are the ones that affect slow your metabolism adversely, making it difficult to lose the weight you would like to and lead to cognitive decline.  These fats can be found in vegetable oils (including corn, soy, and safflower oils) and saturated fats from beef, pork, lamb, chicken and dairy foods.  “Ugly” fats are a different animal entirely.  These are man-made fats that simply cannot be properly digested by your body at all.  These fats interrupt the natural operation of your cells that have the capacity to affect your health in radically negative ways.  These fats include trans fats and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats.  Food containing these fats include cake and pancake mixes, cookies, crackers, frozen meals, French fries, and some breakfast cereals, corn/potato chips, and frozen pizza. The type of fat is more important the amount of fat you consume.  Good fats promote a  healthy body and a healthy brain.  That’s the skinny on the fat.

Sugar:  Not So Sweet     

The average American consumes 150-180 pounds of sugar per year.  Soft drinks and other sweetened beverages account for 66 percent of these calories in the form of high fructose corn syrup.  Consider eliminating these empty calories from your diet, as the fructose goes directly to the liver and the glucose increase (blood sugar) affects the pancreas, triggering insulin spikes.  As a result, your appetite will increase which will promote weight gain, and over time, can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.  If the label on your food contains “high-fructose corn syrup” or “corn sugar” you can be sure it is not a whole food full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.  Minimize or avoid these foods.  The can cause inflammation in your body.

Food is much more than calories; it is information.  Food communicates with your genes to positively or negatively impact your health.  What language is your food speaking?

SOURCES:

UltraMetabolism, Mark Hyman, M.D., Atria Books, New York, 2006.Use your Brain to Change Your Age, Daniel G. Amen, M.D. Crown Archetype, New York, 2012 The Blood Sugar Solution, Mark Hyman, M.D., Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2012. http://theconsciouslife.com/top-10-inflammatory-foods-to-avoid.htm http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/04/28/ultrawellness-lesson-2-inflammation-immune-balance/  What Do Specific Foods Do?  Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, University of Minnesota. http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/food-medicine/what-do-specific-foods-do