Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Soft Shell Crabs with Orzo Summer Salad

One of our favorite summer meals is soft shell crabs. Last week, we were able to buy “whales” at Gus and Company Fish Market in Montclair (whales are the largest size of soft shells). They weren’t cheap but they were incredibly meaty and brimming with freshness.

After a light dusting of seasoned flour, the crabs are sautéed in a delicate mix of just butter, olive oil, and cream sherry. They come up golden brown, crisp, and delectable. I can’t provide a formal recipe for you because it was a “verbal” recital from a friend’s long ago stint at a New Jersey seaside restaurant. These are the best soft shells we've ever had. Here’s the gist:

Mix some all-purpose flour with salt, freshly ground pepper, and a bit of paprika in a bowl. Transfer seasoned flour to a plate or container big enough to use for dredging. 

Dry the crabs with a paper towel. Dredge crabs in seasoned flour and set aside.

Melt 1-2 TB of butter and 1-2 TB olive oil (it should be a 50/50 proportion) in a heavy duty pan (we use cast iron). When the pan is hot, add the crabs, shell side down and cook until golden. Flip and cook about 3-5 minutes, depending on size of crabs. Remove crabs from the pan, add about 1/4 cup of cream sherry and cook until alcohol evaporates and approximately 2 TB of sauce remains. Pour pan sauce over crabs and serve.
We made a delightful orzo salad to accompany the crabs. From the good cooks over at Food52, this salad is the perfect summer side, packed with sweet cherry tomatoes, scallions, fresh spinach, and salty feta. It’s colorful and delicious, and as a bonus, you can make it ahead of time. If you like, a bright Sauvignon Blanc is very nice with this meal.

Happy Summer Eating!

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