Buttermilk Soft Shell Crab with Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette
Chef Brian Voltaggio of Charlie Palmer Steak – Washington,
Open Ravioli of Soft Shell Crab with Fava Beans, Cipollini
Onions and Applewood Bacon
Chef Ethan McKee of Equinox – Washington, DC
Sautéed Soft Shell Crab with Roasted Shiitake Vinaigrette
and Pickled Ramps
Chef Mark Andelbradt of Morimoto – New York, NY
When the salty waters off the coast of Maryland and
the Carolinas grow slightly warmer, the mid-Atlantic’s
blue crabs literally burst from their shells, experiencing
a 30 percent growth spurt that leaves them protected by only
a thin, pliable exoskeleton. Timing is critical; the crabs
must be harvested within hours of molting for prime texture
and to prevent their being eaten by predators. Their limited
availability, along with the vigilance their harvesting necessitates,
results in an average wholesale
price of $2.50 -$3. But the cost is well worth it; they are
a popular, high-return ingredient that can fetch $14 a plate
as an appetizer.
Soft shell crabs are shipped live but often
perish in transit. Live crabs should be stored at 50ºF
before cleaning; afterwards they can be refrigerated as usual.
The crabs have a shelf-life of 5-6 days from the time of shipping.
To clean, lift both sides of the top shell and remove the
feathery gills. Trim the head below the eyes with a pair of
scissors and scoop out the soft material behind the cut. Lift
and remove the triangle-shaped flap, known as an apron, from
the underside, and rinse well before using.
Often pan fried or deep fried, soft shells
pair well with flavorful, acidic sauces that cut through the
oil. Chef Mark Andelbradt of Morimoto in New York
pairs the crabs with earthy, tangy and sweet roasted shiitake-shallot
vinaigrette. Seasonal produce like fava beans, basil, arugula
and tomatoes are natural accompaniments to crab on the menus
of Chef Brian Voltaggio of Charlie Palmer Steak and
Chef Ethan McKee of Equinox, both in Washington D.C.