CityEats—The PLATE New York
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Pinch me, it’s finally spring in New York! And now that we’ve had our fill of ramps and fiddlehead ferns, it’s time to sink our claws into soft shell crabs.
Citing the crabs’ sweet flavor and versatility, Top Chef winner Harold Dieterle counts them among his favorite ingredients to work with. “The arrival of the soft shells is always an exciting one for me. It indicates that the seasons are changing, and opens up a lot of the possibilities for what we can do in the kitchen.” One such creation at The Marrow last month featured crispy crabs paired with mustard greens, pickled ramps, cocoa nibs and a spicy almond sauce.
Here’s what three other local chefs are doing with them this year and where you can find ‘em.
Seafood whiz and Chef Ed Brown loves the sweet and briny flavor of his “softies.” At his upscale seafood spot in the Empire Hotel, Brown counts the way he loves them: “I cook them with just a touch of olive oil on theplancha, quick-fry them for a great sandwich or even give them the lightest coating of tempura, just enough to hold a few panko crumbs to make them super crisp.” To experience spring’s full bounty, order the daily sell-out special of Seared Soft Shell Crabs with Ramp Pesto, pea tendrils, spring vegetables and grilled sourdough, available through the end of the month.
Over on the east side, this fine French dining landmark makes soft shell crabs the star of their three-course prix-fixe menu (through the end of the season). Chef Joel Benjamin gives them the classical French treatment by preparing them à la meunière: after a whole-milk soak, the crabs are lightly (but thoroughly) coated in flour, then fried in clarified butter to achieve the perfect crisp-tender ratio. They’re nestled on a bed of wilted spinach and drizzled with lemon juice and melted butter (Mais oui!), then topped with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
In subterranean Manhattan, “Bishop of Bivalves” Executive Chef Sandy Ingber shows equal adeptness with soft shells. This season Ingber experiments with over 100 recipes for inspired preparations, giving the crabs a Cajun persuasion with smoky Tasso pork and roasted corn, or extra crunch with a macadamia nut crust and a zippy pomegranate buerre blanc. For the perfect summer salad, opt for Jerked Soft Shell Crabs. Four of the jerk-rubbed, grilled softies arrive on greens with hearts of palm, grape tomatoes and tidy piles of mango salsa, all dressed with passion fruit-poppy seed dressing.
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