I recently met with Equinox and Chef & Co-Owner Todd Gray, and I learned how to cook soft shell crabs and sampled a number of really delicious dishes using them.
Soft shells are blue crabs caught in their molted state, and the natural molting process creates the soft shell crab season, which runs from late spring to early fall. I don't have very much experience eating them, and usually just like crabs when they're steamed and coated in Old Bay, but Gray made them seem really easy to work with.
While I don't think I could clean them myself, since I get squeamish about them, you can order them at Whole Foods, where they will clean them for you. You can also find them at Black Salt and River Falls Seafood Company in Potomac. And you can find them on the menu at Equinox as well.
One of my favorite dishes of the night was the soft shell crab with Vidalia onion puree, Rappahannock spinach and Equinox bacon. Recipe is below.
• 6 soft shell crabs, cleaned
•2 cups Wondra Flour
•1/2 cup clarified butter
•1 cup sweet onion puree
•1/2 lb spinach
•3 shallots, sliced
•1 tbsp olive oil
•1/4 cup bacon lardons
•1/2 cup white butter sauce
•1/4 cup chives, minced
•1 tsp preserved lemon
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees
• Heat a large sauté pan to medium and clarified butter to pan.
• Dredge crabs in flour and season with salt and pepper and lay them into pan back side down. Cook crabs for two minutes and turn over. Place pan in oven and cook additional 2-3 minutes.
• Heat up sweet onion puree in a small sauce pot. Keep warm.
• Heat another medium-sized sauté pan and add olive oil and shallots. Sweat for one minute. Add spinach, season with salt and pepper. Cook two minutes. Drain spinach onto paper towel-lined tray and keep warm.
• Heat up butter sauce. Add lardons, chives and lemon.
• Remove crabs from oven. Drain onto paper towels.
•Take six warm plates. Spoon onion puree into center of dish and place spinach on top of puree. Place one crab onto each dish and drizzle with bacon butter.