A few weeks ago when I was having dinner at Johnny’s Half Shell with some family in Washington DC, I was fortunate enough to catch a soft-shell crab dish on the menu. They were sautéed with Old Bay and basil beurre blanc and served with corn spoonbread; very simple and very delicious. Soft-shell crabs are quite possibly my favorite type of seafood, and unfortunately they have a very short season in San Francisco (longer on the East Coast with Blue Crabs). So when I spotted some at Falletti Foods on Sunday morning for $7.99 each, I couldn’t resist. I had never actually cooked soft-shell crabs myself, so I asked the butcher for a few suggestions and I was pleased to find out that it was rather simple.
Earlier that morning I had been to the Divisadero Farmer’s Market to pick up some produce. Upon entering, I noticed a table set up with various seasonal recipes, all of which were quite simply prepared and most ingredients were available at the market that day. One recipe that particularly caught my eye was a zucchini and herb salad. I picked up the necessary ingredients for the salad, and once I saw the soft-shell crabs I knew these two culinary delights would be the perfect match for each other.
Pan Fried Soft-shell Crabs
- 2 soft-shell crabs
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 TB Old Bay Seasoning
- 2 TB butter
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 lemon
Zucchini and Fresh Herb Salad
- 1 zucchini, sliced in 1/8 inch pieces lengthwise (I recommend using a mandoline or slicer)
- 1 cup frisee, trimmed
- 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup loosely packed flat-leaf Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 12 Kalamata olives, thinly sliced lengthwise
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 TB Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp anchovy paste
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TB olive oil
Start by preparing the salad. After slicing the zucchini, sprinkle evenly with salt and place in a small colander in the sink for about 5 minutes. Rinse the zucchini under cold water and lay out on a clean dishtowel. Carefully fold the towel over the zucchini and roll to squeeze out the excess water. Let sit while you prepare the dressing.
In a small food processor, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, Dijon, anchovy paste and black pepper. Process to combine, and add oil in a slow, steady stream. Assemble the frisee, herbs, onion and olives with the zucchini. Toss with dressing right before serving.
Meanwhile, combine flour and Old Bay on a small plate. Lightly dredge each crab on both sides and set aside. Heat butter and garlic clove in a large nonstick skillet over a medium flame. Saute for 1-2 minutes and then remove the garlic clove. Add each crab to the pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and squeeze lemon over each crab. Place on top of the salad and serve!
I loved everything about this dish. It was composed of many different textures and flavors, but they went together perfectly. I was worried that the crabs might be greasy with all the butter that I used, but they were cooked and seasoned perfectly.
You could pair this dish with a variety of different white wines: Australian Viognier, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Alsatian Pinot Gris or Reisling, Gruner Veltliner, or perhaps even a Chablis. But my personal favorite (and obvious choice) is a medium-bodied Rosé with hints of citrus and spice. In particular, Mulderbosch Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, VML Rosé of Pinot Noir, or Saddleback Rosato di Sangiovese. Or if you want to go with the French route, look for something a little darker in color that comes from a Grenache blend. The lighter flavors of citrus and strawberry in Rosé will go with the lemon in the salad and on the crabs, but the spicier notes will stand up to the flour and Old Bay. It’s a combination that is sure to impress any dinner guest!