The other night Mark out of the blue said: “I feel like an exoskeleton for supper.” It’s not every day you hear something like that. And it brought to mind the absolute best “thing you’d never want to have happen to you involving your future mother-in-law” story ever. My mother and father were courting back in the late 1940s when my grandfather on my dad’s side suggested a road trip from Jacksonville, Illinois, to Maine. Think about that. Hours and hours in the car with your future in-laws. On your best behavior 24/7 for at least two weeks. So, off go my mom and dad and his mom and dad to Maine. Bad enough. But it gets worse. They finally get to Maine and stop at a lobster dock. My dad and granddaddy decide to walk down to the boats to chat up the lobstermen for a minute, leaving my mother and Mrs. Chapin in the car. FOR FOUR HOURS. No cellphone to call, no texting, “Where the hell are you?”
I asked my mom once why she didn’t get out of the car, stomp down to the docks and bring those boys back to the car. She was a very assertive woman in the best possible way but she just didn’t want to cross Mrs. Chapin, not an assertive woman, so early in the game. My mother had quite an aversion to lobsters for most of her life. She said eating one was like “fighting for your food.”
Which brings me to exoskeleton dinner night. We went over to the Publix (the world’s best grocery store) in Cool Springs to scope out the exoskeletons. They had some live lobsters, but I’d just seen Julie and Julia and I just couldn’t go there. I remember cooking a lobster once and I really did hear it scratching at the top of the pot. From the inside. So, instead, we opted for some king crab legs that were already cooked and detached from anything that might stare at you mournfully. If any of you are intimidated by crab legs, just stop it right now. They couldn’t be easier. As I said, they are already cooked (they always are) and all you need to do is put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes to warm them up. I sometimes stick them on the grill. Then the fun begins. Get some kitchen scissors (I hate Williams Sonoma because everything is ridiculously expensive but the best kitchen scissors I ever got came from there).
Use the scissors to cut through the exoskeleton. You might be tempted to use the kind of cracker you use for lobster claws, but they don’t work. The shell is too soft.
And then the good part! You melt a stick of butter in a small saucepan. Now, don’t attempt to serve this all fancy, with china and a tablecloth. No, no, no. You put the crab legs on the counter in the pan you heated them up in. You put the pot of melted butter on the counter. You count out about 10 paper towels each and go to town. Do “the hunch” so you don’t drip butter all over your shirt.
We don’t do this very often. It’s a cholesterol fiesta. But it’s sooooo good. A few hours later, I was sitting in bed watching Giada or Paula or somebody and I could still faintly feel the film of butter around my mouth. I savored it. What more could you want from a meal?