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the way we may

Recipe: soft-shell crab spider roll

It’s already May. Jeremy sweetly remembers to wish me a happy “I’m Glad I Met You” Day the first of every month and it always brings a smile to my face. But the first of May tugs at this place deep in my chest because I can’t help but count how many years it has been since my sister passed away. Twelve. It’s been twelve years. And I wondered if I should bother posting a photo of the flowers I buy for her on this day. Does anyone care? I don’t talk about Kris much with anyone anymore except for Jeremy and my mom. My emotions will catch me off guard sometimes – triggered by a story, a song, a photograph, a memory. It doesn’t matter if anyone else cares. I still care. I still miss her. These flowers are for Kris, but they are really for me. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it. I guess I don’t feel that I have to.

for kris, for me

Spring sprouts forth down yonder in Boulder – a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors on the ground and in the trees. I feel as if I’m emerging from that long slumber filled with dreams painted in whites, greys, and shadows. All signs point to GO. The anticipation for summer is high at our house, because we have big adventures planned for the little pup. I’ve got a few pages in my pocket notebook filled with the names of mountains and trails… places to take Neva on hikes, trail runs, and backpacks. We are excited and I think she might be, too, even if she doesn’t know it yet.

double plum blossoms

our new backpacking tent is neva-approved

But winter isn’t letting go in the mountains. The recent storms of April have been slow-moving, leaving some good snow in their wake. Every week we have gotten at least one if not three storms passing through the neighborhood. This is what February should have been, but the difference is that we have less wind in the springtime, so our backcountry is currently skiing like silk. I am thrilled. Jeremy is thrilled (sort of – he’s also impatient to resume trail running). Neva is over the moon.

we know better than to put our skis away before june

jeremy carves a sinusoid in the fresh snow

well that was super fun

There’s more snow on tap for Mother’s Day weekend, which isn’t really abnormal around here. Most of the last 11 years we’ve been in Colorado have had snow fall in May. The bigger issue is where to ski it. Of course, once the ski is over, the number one priority is what to eat because we’re usually famished. Typical après ski calorie bombs include burgers, pizza, or chili, but our favorite is most definitely sushi. Back in the day, that required a half hour drive down a curvy canyon road to a sushi bar. Now, however, we are more likely to make sushi at home with our expanded repertoire. The one thing I hadn’t tried making until now is the ever popular spider roll. For the uninitiated, a spider roll is a tempura-fried soft-shell crab roll. The fried little legs stick out at the ends of the roll evoking spider imagery – or deliciousness, if you are a sushi lover.

soft-shell crabs, ice water, flour, egg, baking soda

I picked up the soft-shell crabs individually frozen at an Asian market (HMart, for the locals). I’ve also seen them on display at Whole Foods from time to time. If you live on the coast, then you probably have far more and fresher options available to you. Tempura frying is pretty easy, but I’ll warn you now that these guys make the loud scary splattering sputtering hot oil noises. Use a splatter screen, and if you don’t own one, get one. I fried mine one at a time because I was too scared to lower a second one in while the first one sounded and looked like it was erupting. You won’t use much of the tempura batter for four crabs, so if you have vegetables or other goodies to tempura fry, you might as well do it all in one sitting.

whisk the ice water and egg

stir the dry and wet ingredients together

coat the crab completely

draining and cooling the fried soft-shell crabs

My parents can sometimes find frozen panko-breaded soft-shell crabs, which can work just as nicely in a spider roll as the tempura-fried crabs. They just pop them into an oven to bake until crisp, which is way less mess and DANGER (or excitement – you decide) than frying. You can fry your soft-shell crabs ahead of time and reheat (re-crisp) them in an oven before assembly. Same goes for your rice which can be gently reheated in the microwave. We overwhelmingly prefer to make our sushi with seasoned sushi rice, which is detailed in the recipe. Do what you will, but I’m fairly certain you’ll find it far superior to regular steamed rice.

ready to roll: nori (seaweed), tempura crab, seasoned sushi rice, black sesame seeds, masago (capelin roe), mayonnaise, sriracha, cucumber, avocado, daikon radish sprouts, barbecue eel sauce (unagi sauce)

stir some sriracha into the mayonnaise

prep: slice the soft-shell crabs on a diagonal

You’ll want to cut each soft-shell crab in half. I tend to cut them on the diagonal making sure each half has a set of legs. I use one soft-shell crab per roll. When I arrange them on the seaweed, they are offset to give an even distribution of crab horizontally. If you care about the aesthetics of the roll, then orient the halves so that the legs barely dangle over each end of the roll, creating your “spider”. A super helpful tip when handling the rice: wet your hands with water. Also? Line your work surface with a sheet of plastic wrap. In this version, we put the rice and the fish roe on the outside of our roll, but you are more than welcome to put them on the inside of the roll with the other fillings (the crab, cucumber, avocado, and sprouts).

press rice on the top three-fifths of the seaweed

spread the fish roe over the rice

sprinkle black sesame seeds

For the inverted effect (with the rice on the outside), once you have spread the rice, fish roe, and sesame seeds on the seaweed, flip the sheet over so that you are staring at a clean side of seaweed. This is where that sheet of plastic wrap comes in handy as it prevents your rice from sticking to your work surface. Distribute your filling ingredients an inch or two from the non-rice edge of the seaweed, then carefully roll the non-rice edge up and over the filling. Avoid the temptation to overfill your roll. Continue rolling tightly, but not so tightly that everything squeezes out the sides. While rolling, when you get to the rice, pull the plastic wrap over the rice so you can manipulate the roll without having the rice stick to your hands. As you tuck the roll in on itself, pull the plastic wrap out so that it is always on the outside of the roll – never inside.

flip the seaweed and arrange the fillings

roll the seaweed up from the non-rice end

you can use a bamboo mat to make a tidy roll

When your roll has a (more or less) cylindrical shape, remove the bamboo mat (if using), but leave the plastic wrap in place. Dip your sharpest knife in water and cut the roll into 6 or 8 pieces through the plastic. You might have to dip and even wipe the knife between each slice as the rice is sticky. When you are done, pull the plastic away. It should come off as one sheet with several strips cut in the middle.

dip your knife in water before cutting

make even slices

pull the plastic away

Arrange your maki on a serving dish. I like to drizzle Sriracha mayonnaise and a sweet Japanese barbecue eel sauce over the pieces before serving, but feel free to omit one or both depending on your preferences. And there you have your spider roll! Ours tasted as good as what we get in most sushi bars, so we’re declaring victory.

the legs are the best part

almost too pretty to eat… almost

Spider Roll
[print recipe]

4 soft-shell crabs, raw (thawed if frozen)
tempura batter (recipe below)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Sriracha to taste
4 sheets nori (toasted seaweed sheets)
4 cups cooked seasoned sushi rice (recipe below)
1/2 cup tobiko or masago (flying fish roe or capelin roe)
toasted black or white sesame seeds
1 rip avocado, pitted, peeled, cut into 12 slices
1 Persian cucumber, cut into strips
1/2 cup daikon radish sprouts
barbecue eel sauce (unagi sauce), optional

seasoned sushi rice
2 cups sushi rice (uncooked)
2 cups water
3 tbsps rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsps sugar

tempura batter
from Sushi Day
1 cup ice cold water
1 large egg
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp baking soda

Cook the rice: Combine the water and rice and cook per the instructions on your rice cooker (I use a Zojirushi rice cooker). If you don’t have a rice cooker: wash, drain, and soak the rice in water for at least 30 minutes, then drain. Combine the rice and measured water in a saucepan and cover. Place the pan over moderately high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for at least 10 minutes (don’t remove the lid or you’ll release all the steam).

Make the dressing: Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a bowl and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Prepare the seasoned sushi rice: Heap the cooked rice in the center of a large bowl. Allow rice to cool in the tub for 10 minutes. Pour the dressing over the rice and mix the dressing evenly with a large spoon or rice paddle. While mixing, fan the rice to cool it. The rice is ready to use when it reaches body temperature.

Make the tempura batter: In a bowl, mix the water and the egg together. In another bowl, mix the flour and baking soda together. Stir dry mix into the wet mix until combined – lumps are okay. Place the batter in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Tempura fry the crab: Heat 3 inches of vegetable oil to about 350°F (a drop of batter should sizzle and float to the top right away). Pat each soft-shell crab dry. Dip a crab in the batter, coating completely, and then carefully lower it into the oil to fry until one side is golden brown and flip. Fry until golden and remove to paper towel or cooling rack to drain. The crab will splatter during frying, so I highly recommend using a splatter screen. Slice the cooled tempura-fried soft-shell crabs in half on the diagonal so that each piece has a set of legs.

Mix the sriracha mayonnaise: Stir the mayonnaise and a little Sriracha together until you achieve the flavor you want.

Assemble the spider roll: On a square sheet of plastic wrap, set down one sheet of nori. If you want eight pieces, work with a long edge of the nori closest to you. If you want six large pieces, then work with a short edge of the nori closest to you. With wet hands, grab a handful of sushi rice and evenly spread it across the top 3/5 of the nori sheet, pressing the rice down to ensure it sticks to the seaweed. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the fish roe evenly over the rice, then sprinkle sesame seeds over the rice/eggs. Flip the nori over so that the rice faces down onto the plastic wrap. At the non-rice end of the nori, lay out two halves of a crab, avocado, cucumber, and daikon sprouts, arranging the legs at each end. Take care not to overfill the roll as the ingredients will squeeze out toward the ends when you roll it.

Roll the fillings up from the non-rice end of the nori (like a carpet) and continue to roll tightly, but not too tightly until the rice encompasses the entire outer part of the roll. Use the plastic wrap to help maintain shape without letting the roll stick to you. Use a bamboo mat to firm up the shape and compact the roll. Remove the bamboo mat, but leave the plastic wrap on the roll. Dip a sharp knife in water and slice through the plastic wrap to cut the roll in half. Clean the knife, dip it in water, and continue to cut until you have 6 or 8 even pieces (depending on how you rolled the seaweed). Peel the plastic from the roll. Arrange the pieces on a plate and drizzle with Sriracha mayonnaise and barbecue eel sauce. Makes 4 cut spider rolls.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

dragon roll sushi not so special roll plum blossom sushi roll volcano roll sushi

30 nibbles at “the way we may”

  1. Kristin says:

    The sushi looks yummy. I love how you remember Kris every year, and think about how much you all must miss her. I think about her husband and children and wonder how they are doing. My dad died in August, and I think I would like to remember him somehow on his birthday every year. I should probably either go out for, or cook, an amazing meal. That’s what he would’ve loved. My husband’s brother died when he was 28, and we don’t have a special way of remembering him. We certainly talk about him, and enjoy how much our son (who is named after him) is like him in talents and personality, but it would have been nice to have some (in)formal way to remember him every year. I guess it’s not too late to start…it’s only been 21 years! So, you didn’t really ask, but I appreciate the opportunity to take a moment to honor someone who is so special to you.

  2. Caitlin R says:

    I love that you buy flowers for Kris every year, and love that you share it with us. So please don’t doubt that.

  3. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    I love how you honor your sister every year, and please continue to post the flowers you buy. We definitely care! Your soft shell crab rolls look amazing, as all your dishes do. :)

  4. Jenn I says:

    Remember your sister however you want, as often as you want. It helps me to know that I’m not the only one that misses someone they lost, no matter how long ago it was.

  5. Giselle @ The Busy Spatula says:

    I think that remembering someone we lost is one way to keep them alive in our hearts. Those are such beautiful tulips you picked for Kris. The crab rolls look amazing. I always wondered how to make spider rolls. They’re either a hit or a miss when I order them.

  6. Jillian says:

    Echoing above — I also love how you continue to publicly honor Kris. It reminds the rest of us to take a minute to remember who we miss, and to appreciate who we have.

  7. trolleira says:

    Yes, I do care! I didn`t know her, but I always smile, when I see your 1 of May flowers for her. It is such a lovely way of remembering. Please do continue.

  8. Erika says:

    I love seeing your flowers for her each year. It always tugs at my heartstrings, being unable to imagine what it would be like to go through life without my sister. If you still gain something from posting the flowers, please do so.

  9. megan says:

    “It doesn’t matter if anyone else cares. I still care. I still miss her.” < this. <3

  10. debbie says:

    I remember every year when you post the flowers for her. Very sweet and touching. Makes me think of the saying “to live in the hearts of those we leave behind is never to die.”

  11. Bette says:

    What beautiful tulips for your sister! I wish I had established a similar ritual of remembrance for my brother, who died 36 tears ago! Not a week goes by that I don’t think of him, even now, after all these years.

    And nice spider roll! I think I’ll take the time to make the seasoned rice, on your recommendation.

  12. Honeybee says:

    What a touching post. I definitely think you should write about your sister – I care, if I may say so without having known her. I think many of your readers can relate to how you feel, even after all these years.

  13. Melanie Evans says:

    Jen – My heart aches for you in the loss of your sister. My sister and I are very close (we’re on a trip together right now). I can’t imagine what I’d do…..I don’t ‘want’ to imagine what I’d do without her. I don’t think one ever gets over the loss of a sibling or loved one. The sadness may be a little less acute or may not be in the forefront of your day to day but it can surface quickly and be intense. I don’t think it’s something one ever ‘gets over’. Hugs.

  14. Jill Hyde says:

    Of course you will never get over it. Grief stays with us, yet I find it is different all the time. I wish I had known your sister. I’m sorry for your loss and pain. xo, jill

  15. Jean says:

    I lost a dear friend in 2014, and I miss her every day. I found a poem which I would like to share with you.

    Remember Me:
    To the living, I am gone./To the sorrowful, I will never return./To the angry, I was cheated,/But to the happy, I am at peace,/And to the faithful, I have never left./I cannot be seen, but I can be heard./So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea—remember me./As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty—remember me./As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity—remember me./Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved,/The times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed./For if you always think of me, I will never be gone. -Anonymous

    Please continue to buy the flowers & share with us. We care.

  16. Marcia says:

    What a beautiful post. My brother passed away 8 years ago so I completely get how you feel. Keep buying those beautiful flowers for yourself; what a lovely tradition.

    On a separate note, I think the state of Colorado should make you their ambassador. I live in New York state where it is certainly quite beautiful. But your photos make me want to quit my job, pack up my car and move to Colorado! As I sit behind my desk in my windowless office, I practically drool over your photos! Oh, and those soft-shelled crabs look pretty darn good too!

  17. Pey-Lih says:

    I think it’s a wonderful tradition to buy flowers and to talk about Kris – thank you for sharing with us. I enjoy reading your blogs, and yes, your audience do care, too. We all have experienced the lost of a loved one – and it’s important to remember them. Enjoy the flowers!

  18. Carol Johnson says:

    It is a lovely idea to buy flowers for Kris every year. They say someone has not really died if they are still in a loved one’s heart. I hope it gets easier as the years go by.

    My husband never remembers the day our son died, but our daughter always does.

    Sending you a hug.

  19. Deborah says:

    Your beautiful tradition of buying flowers in Kris’s memory and posting them for us to appreciate confirms and celebrates the love you will always have for her in your heart. Your comment about not being sure if you will ever get over the death of your beloved sister struck me because my 88-year-old father recently passed away and someone gave me this insightful quote by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.”

    Wishing you peace~

  20. DB says:

    Beautiful tribute to your sister. She lives on in your heart and your stories.

  21. Diana says:

    Remembering your sister with you, and sending love to you and your family.

  22. katzcradul says:

    I care. I’m sorry it still hurts. You shouldn’t expect to get over it. A friend of mine posted this today. It might help, if only for today.

    This is the big, scary truth about trauma: there is no such thing as “getting over it.” The five stages of grief model marks universal stages in learning to accept loss, but the reality is in fact much bigger: a major life disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no “back to the old me.” You are different now, full stop.

    This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy. The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal. It is to acknowledge and wear your new life — warts, wisdom, and all — with courage.

  23. Mary N. says:

    While this may seem “odd” in a way it seems as if we all remember your sister with you now. Please don’t ever think that we aren’t recognizing and sharing your loss. Those flowers break my heart every year but thank you for sharing your memories with us.

  24. marissa says:

    so much love to you. because in grief or anything else that is all we can give. you give her love every time you honor her memory.

  25. farmerpam says:

    Okay, I’m crying now, I miss my sister, it’s been one year this March. Cancer’s a jerk. One year, there are moments that catch me off guard, like now. Thanks for sharing. Sending you love and hugs.

  26. Sarah says:

    I lost my sister too, 11 years ago. I have her picture here where I can see her every day and remember every good moment together. I love that you buy flowers on her birthday, so beautiful and such a sweet gesture of your love for her. I wish many time a day that she could enjoy life with me but I know by me living my life well is the best way to honor her. I hope she can peek down from heaven to join in once in a while.

  27. Rose says:

    Posting a picture of the flowers you buy to honor your sister on the anniversary of the day she passed away is not a bother. We care, Jen. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us. We share in your grief when we think of the the loved ones that are lost to us.

  28. jenyu says:

    Kristin – thanks for your thoughts and I do hope if it is your wish, that you find a way to remember those loved ones who are gone. I think for me, I’ll continue to do so – I’m just not sure if I need to share it with others – but we’ll see how it shakes out with time :)

    Caitlin – that’s really sweet of you, thanks. I’m not doubting if others care, just questioning if this is something I want to always share. xo

    Eva – thanks.

    Jenn – I really appreciate that xoxo

    Giselle – It’s true. And I think part of the reason I share the flowers here is because I just think the flowers themselves are so beautiful for anyone’s interpretation :)

    Jillian – thank you xo

    trolleira – xo

    Erika – you’re very sweet.

    megan – :)

    debbie – lovely words, thank you!

    Bette – if you are thinking of him often after 36 years, then you already have your own ritual of remembrance – no less special than anyone else’s ritual xo

    Honeybee – thank you xo

    Melanie – very true. I hope you had a nice vacay with your sister :)

    Jill – xo

    Jean – thanks for sharing the poem. Lovely.

    Marcia – thank you. I’m sorry about your brother’s passing. Sending a hug. Also – you should most certainly move to Colorado! :)

    Pey-Lih – thanks.

    Carol – I am pretty sure that my loss pales in comparison to your loss. My mother will carry her heartbreak until her last day as I think all mothers who lose a child do. A great big hug to you.

    Deborah – a beautiful quote and so true. Thank you xo

    DB – xo

    Diana – thank you <3

    katzcradul - oh, I am not expecting to get over it (as I said in the post). My questions were mostly rhetorical :) But thanks for the input.

    Mary - thank you xo

    marissa - so kind of you, thank you!

    farmerpam - I'm so sorry, my friend. I am so very sorry. Love to you and peace for your broken heart. xo

    Sarah - It's true, I don't think those we've lost would want us caught in grief and sorrow for the rest of our days. Sending you great big hug.

    Rose - xoxo <3

  29. angelitacarmelita says:

    Never worry, or stop acknowledging this day with us. I lost my brother 24 years ago and I can tell you that it will never stop being a profoundly sad time when it hits you. Sometimes the craziest things make me think of him, and I find myself either crying or smiling. Remember her, share with us, keep her memory with you always. My mother and I are the only ones that talk about him now, and it makes me sad that his memory isn’t more alive. One of the many reasons why so many of us feel as thought we’re friends with you is that you continue to be yourself, and share your feelings as you see fit. Always honored to be a part of your journey.

  30. jenyu says:

    angelitacarmelita – thank you for the encouraging words and I’m so sorry about your brother. Many hugs to you xo

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