simple sautéed soft shell crab; haricot vert; grilled tomato

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