Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harbingers of Spring



Fried Soft-Shell Crabs with Ramps

This recipe appears in:

The Young Man & the Sea: Recipes & Crispy Fish Tales from Esca

by David Pasternack and Ed Levine, Artisan, 2007.


Serves 4


I'm very particular whom I buy my soft-shell crabs from, and you should be, too. I get mine from Tommy Crab. When you buy soft-shell crabs they shouldn't be moving around. Their backs should feel soft, like a baby's bottom. I like soft-shells fried, as they are here, or grilled. When I've sautéed them, too often they've come out oily.


8 medium or 10 small young ramps

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups Wondra

1 cup cornstarch

1 cup whole milk

8 small to medium soft-shell crabs,

cleaned by your fishmonger

1 lemon, thinly sliced

Sherry Vinaigrette (see below)


Clean the ramps by cutting off the root ends, and cutting away the top leaves, leaving just a bit of green. Rinse under cool running water and then dry. Cut them into 1/4-inch pieces.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and ramps and sauté until the ramps are tender, 3 to 5 minutes (the cooking time will increase as ramp season progresses and they grow firmer). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the ramps to a bowl, and season with salt and pepper; keep warm. Discard the garlic and the oil.

In a wide shallow bowl, combine the flour with the cornstarch and season with

1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Place the milk in another shallow bowl.

Wipe the sauté pan clean with a paper towel. Add the 1/2 cup oil and heat over a medium-high flame until very hot.

Dip the crabs into the milk, and then dredge lightly in the flour mixture. Shake off the excess flour, and then repeat: soak in the milk, dredge in the flour, shake. Repeat with the lemon slices. Place the crabs in the sauté pan, top side down, along with the lemon slices—they should sizzle. Cook the crabs until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked crabs to a paper-towel-lined plate to cool, and season immediately with a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Set out four serving plates. Drizzle the vinaigrette around each plate and place two crabs, some ramps, and a few lemon slices on each. Serve immediately.


Sherry Vinaigrette


Makes 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons sherry-wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 1/4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil




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