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Published: Tuesday, 6/6/2006

Sauteed Soft-Shell Crabs With Hazelnuts

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Juice from 1 lemon

4 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

1/2 tablespoon dry mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 to 10 tablespoons clarified butter (see Cook's notes) made

from 12 to 14 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup flour

4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and dressed

1/3 cup skinned hazelnuts, roughly chopped and toasted (see

Cook's notes)

1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 1/2 cups green beans

Juice of 1 lime, for garnish

1 tablespoon snipped chives, for garnish

Cook's notes: To make clarified butter, melt unsalted butter over low heat without stirring. Let it sit for several minutes, then skim off the foam. Leave the milky residue at the bottom and use only the clear (clarified) butter on top. To toast hazelnuts, spread them on a baking sheet and place them in a 350-degree oven, shaking the pan occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully because the nuts can burn quickly.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, juice from 1 lemon, 3 teaspoons of Dijon-style mustard, and dry mustard, mixing until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For vinaigrette: In a separate small bowl, combine vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon of Dijon-style mustard, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and set the vinaigrette aside. For brown butter: In a small pan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter and cook, swirling the butter in the pan until it is an even light brown. Set aside.

Place the flour in a shallow bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Dip both sides of the crabs in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 6 to 8 tablespoons of clarified butter and cook the crabs, top side down, for 1 to 2 minutes. Turn over the crabs, carefully drain the liquid from the pan, and add the brown butter, hazelnuts, diced tomatoes, and cilantro. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the beans and cook 4 to 5 minutes or until tender but still crisp. Drain and return to the pot. Toss the beans with the vinaigrette and divide among 4 serving plates. Place a crab on top of the beans and sprinkle with the lime juice. Drizzle the sauce over all and top with chives. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: Chef Patrick O'Connell of the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va.

Per serving: 413 calories, 8g protein, 13g carbohydrates, 38g fat, 46mg cholesterol, 10g saturated fat, 303mg sodium, 3g dietary fiber

Soft-Shell Crabs

2 to 4 servings

This recipe is courtesy of Jimmy Sneed, probably the foremost expert on soft-shell crabs. He wrote the foreword to "The Soft Shell Crab Cookbook." At the time, he was the chef at Windows on Urbanna Creek (Va.). He subsequently ran the Frog and the Redneck in Richmond, Va.

Today, Jimmy is consulting for another restaurant that is about to open in Richmond. Here, he defers to soft-shell nobility by presenting the crabs with simplicity.

1/4 cup flour

4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and dressed

2 to 4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

3 to 6 tablespoons clarified butter (a) (made from 5 to 8 tablespoons unsalted butter)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Blot the crabs with paper towels, then dip them in the flour and shake off the excess (the crabs should be dusted, not coated, with flour).

Place a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons oil and 1 to 2 tablespoons clarified butter. Add 2 crabs and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Turn over and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the crabs to a serving plate. Wipe the pan with paper towels and repeat the process with the remaining crabs.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and 1 to 2 tablespoons clarified butter. Brush the crabs with the lemon butter and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

(a) NOTE: To make clarified butter (so you can use the butter at a higher temperature; with its solids, butter burns at a much lower temperature), melt unsalted butter over low heat without stirring. Let it sit for several minutes, then skim off the foam. Leave the milky residue at the bottom and use only the clear (clarified) butter on top.

Per serving (based on 4): 99 calories, 4g protein, 0g carbohydrates, 9g fat, 32mg cholesterol, 4g saturated fat, 102mg sodium, 0g dietary fiber

Soft-Shell Crab BLTs With Basil Aioli

4 servings

While Mary Richter was the chef at Cities restaurant in Washington, she came up with this novel BLT, whose robust flavor is accented by basil. Today, she works for Surdyk's Market in Minneapolis, her home town.

1/2 cup loosely packed basil

2 cloves garlic

1 cup mild-tasting olive oil

2 egg yolks (a)

About 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

4 soft-shells crabs, cleaned and dressed

8 slices of country bread, grilled or toasted

2 cups arugula or watercress

2 beefsteak or yellow tomatoes, sliced

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

8 slices applewood smoked bacon, fried crisp

In a blender or food processor, puree the basil, garlic and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Without cleaning the blender or food processor, add the egg yolks, lemon juice and salt and process for 30 seconds. With the machine running, slowly and alternately add the remaining oil and the basil oil mixture. The mayonnaise should thicken quickly. Add more salt or lemon juice to taste. (If the aioli is too thick, add a tablespoon of cold water to achieve desired consistency.) Transfer to a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate.

When ready to cook, prepare the grill. If using a gas grill, preheat the grill to medium. If using a charcoal grill, start the charcoal or wood briquettes. When the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly under the cooking area for direct heat. Oil the grate. Grill the crabs, top side down, for about 2 minutes. Turn over and grill 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the aioli on the grilled or toasted bread. Arrange the arugula or watercress on half of the slices and top with the tomatoes, onion and bacon. Place a grilled crab on each sandwich and top with the remaining bread. Serve immediately, with more aioli on the side.

(a) NOTE: Scientists estimate that 1 in 10,000 fresh eggs may be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. Because of that possibility, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises that uncooked or undercooked eggs not be consumed by the very young, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems.

Per serving: 402 calories, 15g protein, 30g carbohydrates, 25g fat, 63mg cholesterol, 5g saturated fat, 863mg sodium, 2g dietary fiber



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