Soft Shell Crabs: The Elegant Fast Food

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It’s the season for soft shell crabs (Callinectes sapidus, meaning Beautiful Swimmer), the delicious result of the Maryland Blue Crab   shedding its shell so it can grow larger.   They are available frozen year round now but the fleeting season for fresh crabs lasts generally from May into August.  They are quick and easy to prepare.  My favorite way is to saute them and serve them Crostini style, on a slice of grilled or sautéed bread smeared with butter.  You can make a herb butter with dill or a little tarragon.  It’s important to have something like bread or rice for a base to catch the succulent juices that run out when you cut into them. Tonight I chose to serve them over rice.  They first need to be cleaned and the fish mongers will do this, if you ask them.  They lose flavor after cleaning, so either buy them right before you cook them or clean them yourself.  It’s easy to do but not for the squeamish.  Here is a link to a video on how to do this yourself.

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To prepare them, first rinse them and pat them dry then salt and pepper them.  Dredge them in all-purpose flour, shaking off the excess.  Melt an equal amount of butter and oil (safflower is good).  I use about a tablespoon of fat per crab as we try to keep our fat down but the point is to get a crisp shell quickly, so if you see there isn’t enough fat, add more at the side of the pan.  If you’re going to use crostini, some of the herb butter can be used here as part of the fat.  Saute them shell side down on medium to high heat until the top is browned and crispy, about four minutes.   Turn the crabs and cook on the bottom about two minutes more.   Move them onto the rice or buttered crostini (one per crab) and deglaze the pan with lemon juice and white wine, adding in a few capers.  Reduce quickly until soupy and pour over the crabs.  Serve ASAP, you don’t want that shell to get soggy!  You eat the whole thing, claws and all.

The Salad is Pears, Black Walnuts and Toasted Goat Cheese

The Salad is Pears, Black Walnuts and Toasted Goat Cheese

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