I loathe the times I get a craving for a certain dish and plan my day around having that for dinner, just to find out mid shopping that the main ingredient is out of season. I am so spoiled by this world of instant gratification that I sometimes forget you really cannot get anything you want, any time you want it. At least not fresh and, for certain items, only fresh will do. I feel this way about heirloom tomatoes. The big, juicy cabernet red heirloom that goes so well with just basil, olive oil, and a decent balsamic. And green tomatoes, don’t even get me started – trying to find those IN season is hard enough.
Fish and seafood are the other ingredients that most often lead to my heartbreak. I love mussels and cannot count the times I have gone to the store with list in hand only to find the little buggers old and tired or just MIA. At least with oysters it seems someone invented a way to avoid the R rule. There is one true beauty though that is so worth the wait- and that is soft shell crab. There is crab season and then there is soft shell crab season. Not chronologically- hierarchically.
Look for fresh soft shell crabs from May to September. Sometimes they keep them in the back so don’t be afraid to ask your fish monger. I think they do this so no one will buy them and then they can keep them for themselves. They will also clean them for you if you don’t feel like doing the dirty work. Cleaning is pretty easy though, just cut off about 1/2” across the front to remove the eyes and mouth, pull up the sides and cut out the gills, flip over and remove the apron and rinse thoroughly. As for preparing them, this is one of those things where you let the star shine. This is the same soft shell crab you get in sushi rolls, but to truly appreciate this crab you put it in a recipe like the one here.
1 cleaned soft shell crab
1 Tbsp Butter
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
1-2 Tbsp capers
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp fresh chopped sage
To cook the crab: Lightly dust crab in flour. In a small, non-stick frying pan, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan on med-high. Add the crab, top side down, and fry 2-3 minutes, just until lightly golden. Flip, and fry 2-3 minutes more until entire crab is cooked. Allow crab to sit on a paper towel for 1 minute to drain excess oil.
To cook the sauce: Chop the parsley and sage prior to frying the crab. While frying the crab, heat butter in sauce pan over medium heat. As butter melts, mix in 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil and a splash of lemon to taste. Stir in capers and allow sauce to come together for 1-2 minutes. Stir in parsley, let simmer for 1 minute then remove from heat. Time this so that the sauce comes off when you are ready to plate the crab.
Plating: Cut crab in half lengthwise and place each half on a small appetizer plate. Pour equal amounts of sauce and capers over the crab. Sprinkle a pinch of fresh sage over the sauce. Serve warm.