Hot Plate
Anthony Butkovich

Hot Plate

Messing with Texas: I rely on the menu at Goode Company Seafood. It's a buffer in a chaotic world, an almost unchanging lineup of fried and mesquite-grilled fish, shrimp, oysters and crawfish, varying only with the seasons and the catch of the day. It's Texas stuff, with only a few urban touches. Nothing froufrou. Nothing trendy.

So I was worried to see not one but three new items on that menu -- stuffed blue crabs, stuffed trout and stuffed flounder -- and all of them, God forbid, baked. Not fried. Not mesquite-grilled. Baked.

Even more alarming: The crab stuffing that they all share involves hearts of palm, roasted red and yellow peppers, Parmesan cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. What, I wondered, has Texas come to? Have we surrendered to Italy and California? Will pesto be next?

Afraid of what I might find, I ordered only one stuffed crab ($4) -- and I immediately realized that it wasn't enough. I wanted to spend more time analyzing the stuffing's complicated texture (a crab stuffing with texture?!), to figure out how the Gulf shrimp and the crabmeat played against the crunchy little corn kernels. I wanted to savor all those tastes, to give the hot pepper and the salty cheese and the faintly sweet crabmeat time to sort themselves out. I even wanted to look at the stuffing, with all its bright flecks of color.

But I ate that amazing crab too fast, and I spent the rest of my meal checking the shell to see if maybe I'd missed a speck. In retrospect, I realized that the effect hadn't been Italian, or Californian, or even particularly Creole (despite the rich butter sauce on the side). Even sun-dried tomatoes can't subdue Texas.


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