It’s that time of year: the crabs have cast off their shells. Cast no aspersions, however, on their sans-exoskeleton status as now they can be cooked and consumed whole. There’s really little else more satisfying than being able to eat a sea creature in toto, and while soft-shell crab dishes are popping up all over Houston, I will, as I do every year, head to Picos for my crustacean fix.
Why? Chef Arnaldo Richards must have the inside scoop, or er, net, with Gulf fishermen because the crabs he manages to procure are most impressive in their girth. When prepared al mojo de ago, lightly dusted with flour and spices then pan-sautéed in garlic-infused olive oil, the crabs’ pristine saline flavor is enriched by unctuous botanical notes as well as some piquant hints of pepper and citrus. The variegated exterior crust provides a satisfying juicy crunch with each bite such that it’s easy to find yourself half done with your plate ($32 for 2, $42 for 3) without alternating tastes of the accompanying avocado chunks, rice, and slaw. However, I recommend making a point to match forkfuls of crab with these respective creamy, starchy, crunchy accoutrements, for their complementary flavors and textures give rise to a maximally enjoyable mouthfeel.
Pair that platter of crabbies with a frozen margarita (or two) and that’s my version of a happy meal.
Soft-shell crabs at Picos will be sold throughout the summer, specifically, according to my sources, “until it isn’t hot outside anymore.” So….forever? Eh, probably not. Better go early and often to make sure you secure your soft shells.