I had never cooked soft shell crab before, or, if I had, I no longer remember having done so, and it would have to have been decades ago.
I’m pretty happy about my first outing (or, as it may be, my second).
I spotted a bucket of live blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) in my Friday fish stand in the Union Square Greenmarket. They were waving at me. I just had to bring them home, especially since it was the first time I had ever seen them in that market.
My first concern, since they were quite alive, was, how to clean them. The internet came to my rescue once again; Marylander Stacey Williamson’s short video is the best description I found; it’s charming, perfectly clear, and reassuring.
For actual cooking guidance, I found the input from both Mark Bittman and Melissa Clark very useful, and I ended up going with the simplest version described by each.
- four very much alive 4 or 5-ounce eastern Long Island soft shell crabs from Anton, Paul Mendelsohn’s son, at Paul’s Pura Vida Seafood station at the Union Square Greenmarket, cleaned as described above, but without removing the ‘mustard’, or digestive system (because it tastes wonderful!), rinsed in running water and dried very thoroughly (so they don’t ‘steam’ and so to encourage crispness, since I had decided not to use a batter of any kind), brought to room temperature, sautéed on both sides (bottom first) over a medium-high flame in a quarter inch of olive oil inside a 13-inch seasoned cast iron pan (I wasn’t timing myself, but maybe for about 3 minutes altogether? Anyway, Clark writes, “As soon as they turn from gray-brown to rust and white, the texture goes from soft to taut and they are ready.”), removed and arranged on the 2 plates, sprinkled with freshly-chopped lovage, from Chris at Keith’s Farm in the Greenmarket and, although I forgot to do so this time, some freshly ground black pepper (I don’t remember adding salt at any time during the cooking process, but then my memory is sometimes unreliable), and drizzled with juice of an organic lemon from Whole Foods Market
- seven ounces of haricots verts from Berried Treasures Farm, stems removed, but otherwise left whole, blanched, drained and dried in the same pan over medium heat, shaking, then set aside in a bowl until the flame was turned on under the pan in which the crab would be sautéed, at which time the beans were reheated in a little oil inside a heavy medium size vintage well-seasoned cast iron pan, finished with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and mixed with dill buds from Willow Wisp Farm
- six small red plum heirloom tomatoes from Eckerton Hill Farm, halved, their surfaces dried, the cut sides placed on top of a mix of sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper spread across a plate, pan-grilled inside an enameled cast iron pan for a few minutes, turned and grilled for a slightly shorter time, removed, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with choppe summer savory from Stokes Farm, and arranged on the plates,
- the wine was a California (Central Coast/Santa Ynez Valley) white, Rick Boyer Santa Ynez Valley Dry White Blend 2017, from Naked Wines
- the music was the incredibly brilliant Igor Stravinsky/W. H. Auden/Chester Kallman collaboration, the 1951 opera, ‘The Rake’s Progress’, in a 1999 recording,John Eliot Gardiner, directing the London Symphony Orchestra and the Monteverdi Choir, with Bryn Terfel, Ian Bostridge, Anne Sofie von Otter, and Deborah York
It’s was a gorgeous bowl of pasta, and as tasty as it looked. The original recipe is from Sara Jenkins.
- two tablespoons of homemade bread crumbs heated in a small amount of olive oil inside a small vintage seasoned cast iron pan over medium heat until golden brown, set aside, the ﬂorets of a medium head of a Romanesco broccoli from Norwich Meadows Farm sautéed over high heat in a tablespoon of butter and half a tablespoon of olive oil inside a large, high-sided vintage copper pot until slightly crisp and lightly browned, then 3 tablespoons of pitted Gaeta olives (originated in Lazio) from Buon Italia, half a tablespoon of rinsed Sicilian salted capers, a smashed half clove of Keith’s Farm heirloom Rocambole Calabrian garlic, and a rinsed and filleted salted Sicilian anchovy were stirred into the pot until the acciuga had broken up, before 8 ounces of a Neapolitan maccheroncini, here, Setaro Torre Annunziata penne rigatoni, cooked al dente, were mixed in, followed by about half a cup of reserved pasta cooking water, the pasta stirred until the liquid had emulsified, seasoned to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, arranged in shallow bowls, a bit of olive oil drizzled around the edges, and sprinkled with some of the bread crumbs
- the wine was a California (Monterey/Santa Lucia Highlands) rosé, 99 Barrels Derek Rohlffs Santa Lucia Highlands Rose 2017, from Naked Wines
- the music was the album, ‘Roberto Gerhard 7′: Harpsichord Concerto; Nonet; Concerto for Piano and Strings’
The kitchen was in chaos only moments before I snapped this picture.
I had to do some unexpected trimming of the 2 fish filets (brought home as butterflied wholes) and then change my plans on how I was going to cook it, both at the last moment, and it was already late in the evening.
I did some quick thinking, which unfortunately did not include a plan for keeping the kitchen and dining area from getting pretty smoky, decided on a relatively carefree vegetable and treatment of that vegetable, then whipped out my large steel oval fish pan.
The peppers were scrumptious, even if I didn’t have time to prepare the herb I had wanted to use with them, and instead tossed in a bit of one that remained from breakfast the day before.
The whiting was delicious, even if most of the crispy skin I was aiming for stayed in the pan. I think whiting may not be the ideal candidate for this operation, or else I hadn’t succeeded in drying the skin enough. The vinaigrette on which it rested was a brilliant way to appreciate the flavor of the fish (and the texture of the skin as well, if all had gone better last night).
- two butterflied whiting filets (20 ounces total, before trimming) from P.E. & D.D. Seafood, washed, drained, trimmed of the remains of their fins, each then separated into 2 filets, since their wholeness had now been compromised by that operation, prepared mostly along the lines of this recipe, seared inside a very hot well-seasoned steel pan, resting on a lemon-basil vinaigrette prepared more or less like this one, and garnished, somewhat exuberantly, with micro chervil from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- a number of sweet ‘Bulls Horn’ yellow-green peppers and very sweet ‘Love Apple’ red peppers from Alewife Farm, each cut once lengthwise, the seeds and membranes removed, sautéed over a high flame until slightly caramelized, and one sliced red scallion from Berried Treasures Farm, a finely chopped small Aji Dulce pepper (not hot) from Eckerton Hill Farm, a small chopped section from a serrano pepper (hot) from Central Valley Farm, and a pinch of crushed dried golden/orange habanada pepper (pungent, but not hot at all) added near the end, the mix tossed with sea salt, freshly-ground black pepper and sprinkled with some budding marjoram from Stokes Farm, arranged on the plates and served with a drizzle of olive oil
- the wine was a California (grapes from the Sacramento River Delta with a small amount of Viognier from Lodi, I think) white, Miriam Alexandra Chenin Blanc California 2017, from Naked Wines
- the music was Rameau’s 1749 pastorale héroïque, ‘Naïs’, Gyorgy Vashegyi conducting the Purcell Choir and the Orfeo Orchestra
Look, no tomatoes!
They’ve been a part of virtually every meal this month, and the last, but it didn’t occur to me to include them last night. I was thinking we’d have a cheese course later, and I wanted to keep the entrée down to 2 elements; I knew there would be some color even without tomatoes; and I thought that the lettuce I would be including, plus a micro green, would add a sufficient element of freshness themselves.
And yet there was tomato, although only as a very subtle addition to the self sauce created by the pork.
I love both this special vegetable, and the pork, as well as the recipes I used for each, but the entire entrée was even more successful than I had expected. In the case of the chops, the simple addition of even the small amount of rendered heirloom tomato juices I had, remaining from an earlier meal, may have made all the difference.
The beets were an extraordinary new sweet variety we’ve enjoyed before, using the same recipe, and even though I ended up roasting them longer than I wanted to, they were still delicious. Horseradish is a blessed thing.
- two 8-ounce bone-in loin pork chops from Flying Pig Farm, thoroughly dried, seasoned with salt and pepper and seared quickly in a heavy enameled cast-iron pan before the 2 halves of a small Whole Foods Market organic lemon was squeezed over the top (then left in the pan between them, cut sides down), the chops placed in a 425º oven for less than 14 minutes (flipped halfway through, the lemon halves squeezed over them once again and replaced), removed from the oven and arranged on plates, some of the pan juices, that had been mixed with tomato juices inside a heavy glass sauce boat, spooned over the top, the sauce boat placed on the table to be available during the meal, the pork garnished with micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge
- a number (but less than a pound) of not-very-large ‘Badger Flame’ beets from Norwich Meadows Farm [more here] trimmed, washed and scrubbed, cut into wedges, tossed in a bowl with roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil; 3 halved cloves of Rocambole garlic from Keith’s Farm (I should have kept them unpeeled), a generous amount of oregano buds from Norwich Meadows Farm, sea salt, and freshly-ground pepper to taste, covered loosely with foil and baked for 20 minutes or so inside a 400º oven, after which the foil was taken off, the beets turned on another side and roasted for 25 minutes longer, or until they were tender, when they were removed from the oven and arranged on 2 plates on top of the well-washed outer leaves of a head of purple romaine lettuce from from Echo Creek Farm of Salem, NY, in the Saturday Chelsea Farmers Market (on the north sidewalk of 23rd Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues), a little olive oil and drops of a good Spanish Rioja vinegar drizzled on the beet segments and the lettuce, but with the greens also sprinkled with salt and pepper, the beet salad finished with some horseradish root from Gorzynski Ornery Farm freshly grated on top [note that the recipe mostly follows one on page 36 inside the hard copy of the excellent book of simple kitchen formulae, ‘Italian Easy’; Recipes from the London River Cafe‘]
There was a cheese course, which I did not photograph
- ‘Pawlet’ cow cheese and ‘Manchester’ goat cheese, both from Consider Bardwell Farm, and Riverine Ranch buffalo milk brie
- a mix of several kinds of raisins (colors and sizes) from Trader joe’s Market
- thin toasts of a sturdy She Wolf Bakery sourdough ‘miche’
We like vegetables so much, that I’ll even load them up on dishes where they wouldn’t normally be much featured; many appear there as miniatures, or in dried form. This time, while it was only a late breakfast, on the plate were fresh tomatoes, a little bitter green, one small scallion, a tiny sweet pepper, a micro mustard, and 2 ‘budding herbs’.
Worth noting: All 6 yolks made it to the plates with their integrity uncompromised (the yolks remained whole), and I wish I knew what I did to get the feathered edges of the whites to caramelize, and be so delightfully crispy (I did add a little butter to the pan before breaking the eggs into it, since there was very little bacon fat left after the bacon was removed, but that’s pretty much what I usually do).
- the meal was an assemblage which included 4 thick strips of bacon and 6 eggs (3 Americauna* and 3 standard), all from Millport Dairy Farm, 2 heirloom tomatoes from Alewife Farm, a bit of puntarelle from Tamarack Hollow Farm, sliced red scallion from Berried Treasures Farm, budding marjoram from Stokes Farm, budding basil from Windfall Farms, one small sliced aji dulce pepper from Eckerton Hill Farm, micro red mustard from Two Guys from Woodbridge, and toast from a terrific She Wolf Bakery Miche
- the music was Bach’s Mass in B minor, performed by Philippe Herreweghe conducting the Collegium Vocale Gent
* in the picture, the egg to the lower left is an Americauna