New York chef Geoffrey Zakarian prefers to cook soft-shell crabs slowly, over very low heat, to reduce the splash factor when they are cut or bitten into. The crabs here are served atop the classic combination of red onion (soaked in ice water to temper its bite), fennel and orange to highlight their delicate sea flavors.
- 6 large soft-shell crabs, cleaned and dressed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup Wondra flour or fine cornmeal
- 1/2 cup clarified butter or vegetable oil
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 medium bulb fennel, cored and sliced crosswise about 1/4 inch thick
- 3 oranges, peeled and cut into segments
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, preferably Spanish
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill, plus additional for garnish
Season the crabs with the salt and pepper and sprinkle them with flour or fine cornmeal. Place about 4 tablespoons of the clarified butter or oil in each of 2 large skillets over low heat. Add 3 crabs to each pan, belly side down. Cook the crabs without disturbing them (they should just barely sizzle) until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Turn over and cook until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside, loosely covered to keep warm.
Meanwhile, soak the onion slices in ice water for 10 minutes, drain and pat dry. Place the onion in a medium bowl with the fennel and orange segments. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, oil, chopped dill and salt and pepper to taste. Add some dressing to the onion-fennel-orange mixture and toss to coat.
To serve, mound equal portions of the salad on 6 plates. Top each salad with a crab. Drizzle remaining dressing around each plate and garnish with fresh dill.
Adapted from "Geoffrey Zakarian's Town/Country" (Clarkson Potter, 2006, $37.50).
Tested by Marcia Kramer.
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