Soft Shell Crab

Memba’ how you used to catch’em down the shore?

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Grab some chicken and string and play some hooky this week ’cause softshells’ are in season, but odds on you can’t duck out so Chef Paul’s got the dish for you!

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Soft, Sun, and Wild are the three words that inspired this dish. Chef Paul saw the ingredients randomly juxtaposed together and another plate of deliciousness was born. Reminiscent of boardwalk strolls with a softshell crab sandwich in hand; sea spray in the air, crunchy, and your mouth bursting with flavor. Softshell. Sunflower. Wild Watercress. Softshell crab in a golden gluten free cornflower crust, wild watercress, on a sunflower puree with a drizzle of Calabrian oil and a side of dirty lemon.

An ode to our flavorful friend who literally gives us the shell on his back for our culinary pleasure;

Soft Shell Crab

An odd infinitive, to crab, intention
wavering like a spirit level’s
bubble between ode
and deed, teaching my nieces
patience, I suppose; how some things must be
taken unawares; that we can draw up
a mystery in fingerbreadths of string, or lure
it toward counterfeit moons. Placing
the mesh between you and the depths
you flee to, we scoop with a nimble wrist turn
as you shoot sidewise powered by delicate
sculling oars, earning the Latin handle
Callinectes sapidus: beautiful swimmer.
But not tonight; tonight you creep
with the rolling motion of blown thistledown
into the net. Pulled into unbuoying air
you’re a sodden giant, seven inches
point to point. You’ve taken
rapid transit to doughy old age, all
minerals of your hardened past
retracted to the gem of calcium
you hold near your heart, if you can be said
to have one. Cautious, we depress
your shell, padded as a damp cigar,
the blackened green of bruised leaves. We squeeze
the flaccid threat of the opening claw, jelly filled
as the seaweed’s float, and lay the throats of our fingers
on the pliant spines of your guillotine-to-be.
Karen Holmberg

“Soft Shell Crab” first appeared in Quarterly West, Issue 60, 2005.

Written by Joseph Castelo.
Joseph Castelo, born in Brooklyn, bred in Jersey. His family has been in business in Hoboken for 60 years and Joe can still remember the smell of sawdust on the floor of The Clam Broth House. Joe is an entrepreneur and film maker. You can catch his latest film, “The Preppie Connection” on Netflix.