Make an easy meal out of soft-shell crab with ice cream for dessert
Whether grilled (as pictured), fried or sautéed, soft-shell crabs are one of summer’s finest gifts, a delicacy treasured by devotees who never tire of them.
Grilled Soft-Shell Crabs
Cooking times will vary, depending on the heat of your grill and the size of the crabs.
Preheat grill. Rinse 8 soft-shell crabs. Remove gills and back flap. Cut off the front of the face, including the eyes. Pat dry with paper towels. Melt ¼ pound butter in saucepan, add 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice and hot sauce to taste. Using a brush, baste crabs with butter.
Spray preheated grill with oil and toast 8 slices country French or Italian bread on both sides. Brush with butter. Remove bread to serving plates.
Spray grill with oil and add crabs, top shell down. Baste with additional butter and cook until shell turns a reddish brown, about 2 minutes for medium-size crabs. Turn crabs, baste with additional butter and cook until bottom shell begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove crabs from grill and place atop toast. Brush with additional butter and season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Makes 4 servings.
We all have lovely summer memories, and they often involve food. Ask me what I particularly look forward to this time of year and, without hesitation, I will answer, “soft-shell crabs and homemade ice cream.” A daily diet of those two might not be what most nutritionists would recommend, although if they were supplemented with salads and vegetables, we might be onto something.
There are three principal ways of preparing soft-shell crabs. The first, and the most common, is deep-frying. We recently had fried soft-shell crabs at Middendorf’s in Manchac, and they were magnificent, as well as huge. It’s off-topic, but I can’t resist mentioning the restaurant’s turtle soup, which was as good as any I’ve ever eaten and better than most, and the broiled flounder, which was superb.
The second method for preparing soft-shell crabs is to sauté them in clarified butter and make a little sauce by deglazing the pan with white wine and whisking in some softened butter. This is a quick and excellent preparation, and until a year ago it was, without question, my favorite. It actually may still be my favorite, but it now has some competition from the third method, which involves grilling the crabs.
I had heard and read that grilling or broiling soft-shell crabs produced excellent results, but I had never tried it. Last summer I found a source for live soft-shells, bought a dozen and put this method to the test. I basted the crabs with a mixture of melted butter, lemon juice and hot sauce, grilled them quickly over a hot fire and served them atop bread toasted on the grill. The toast soaked up the butter, crab juices and crab fat, and the result was absolutely delicious — the essence of crab.
After a meal of soft-shell crabs, a dish of homemade ice cream seems just right. Making ice cream used to be a project that required lots of ice, salt and effort. Today, with the availability of countertop ice cream machines powered by electricity instead of your arm, making ice-cream is a snap, so there’s no excuse for not frequently indulging in one of the glories of summer.
Sautéed Soft-Shell Crabs
Cooking times will vary, depending on the size of the crabs. Unless you have a very large skillet, you can cook these crabs in two batches or use two large skillets.
Rinse 8 soft-shell crabs. Remove gills and back flap. Cut off the front of the face, including the eyes. Pat dry with paper towels and dredge in 1 cup all-purpose flour. Shake off excess.
Add enough clarified butter to the skillet(s) to form a thin layer and place over medium heat. When butter is sizzling, add crabs, top side down, and cook until shell is a reddish brown, about 2 minutes. Turn crabs and cook until shell begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer crabs to serving plates.
Pour off most of the butter, increase heat to high and add wine. Scrape up any brown bits adhering to the pan and boil ²⁄³ cup dry white wine until it becomes syrupy, then add 4 tablespoons softened butter, a tablespoon at a time, while stirring or whisking to form an emulsion. Pour sauce over crabs. Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Makes 4 servings.
Vanilla Ice Cream
The definition of security is having a container of vanilla ice cream in the freezer. Whether eaten on its own, combined with a slice of cake or pie or embellished with a sauce or topping, vanilla is unbeatable.
Heat 3 cups whole milk in a heavy saucepan to just below a boil. In a mixing bowl, beat 8 egg yolks and ¾ cup granulated sugar until light and airy. Slowly add hot milk to egg yolks, a little at a time, while whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high-heat silicone spatula until thickened. The mixture will coat the spatula when ready.
Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Place the bowl in a container of ice and water and stir until cool. Add 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Refrigerate until cold, then process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Makes a little less than 1 quart.
Lemon Ice Cream
This is a light and very refreshing ice cream, just right for the season.
3 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
6 egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1. In a heavy saucepan heat milk and lemon zest to just below a boil.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until light and airy. Slowly add hot milk to egg yolks, a little at a time, while whisking constantly.
3. Return mixture to sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high-heat silicone spatula until thickened. The mixture will coat the spatula when ready.
4. Through a fine mesh strainer pour mixture into a bowl. Strain lemon juice into the mixture and stir to combine. Place the bowl in a container of ice and water and stir until cool.
5. Refrigerate until cold, then process in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Makes about 1 quart.
|Clarified butter has a higher smoke point than whole butter, so it is often preferred for sautéing.
To make clarified butter, simply melt whole butter, skim off the foam that rises to the top, pour off the clear butter fat (the clarified butter) and discard the milk solids on the bottom of the pan.