Softshell Crab Entrée at Terra

By Jonathan Sharpe
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Softshell crab with spring peas and heirloom carrots at Terra. Photo by Jonathan Sharpe

what: softshell crab entrée
cost: $24
where: Terra, 100 State St., 791-3443

An article published in Nature in 2007 announced evidence that higher brain functions like creativity, symbolic thinking and technology appeared much earlier in Homo sapiens than previously thought. That evidence was found in a high cave on Pinnacle Point on the southern coast of South Africa, where early humans fled to escape Pleistocene climate change. Our pioneering ancestors used tools to exploit the rich marine life there, feasting on shellfish and grinding them into red ochre pigment.

Those early humans most likely dined on marine life like mussels, whelks and periwinkles, but this is where the science ends and my conjecture begins: I like to think at least some of those creative forebears — prehistoric chefs, if you will — figured out how to take advantage of the brief period of time when recently molted crabs have soft, edible shells.

Fast-forward a couple hundred thousand years (give or take a few) to the beginning of this spring’s soft shell season: Terra chef/owner Mike Davis keeps the focus on the flavors of the crab by keeping the breading and the set very light and complementary, resting a big softie on a bed of spring peas, tiny potato cubes, purple and golden heirloom carrots, fennel and rhubarb, dressed with a coriander-carrot coulis and sherry mustard brown butter. Get them while they last.

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