Fresh Direct had a special on soft-shell crab, which would be perfect for my sunday supper celebrating this late spring season. But what to do with it? There's no question that a good pan-fried soft-shell crab sandwich with a lemony aioli is about as good as it gets, but I did that last season. So how happy was I when I then opened up The New York Times and found Mark Bittman's newest recipe for Pasta with Soft-Shell Crabs. It was like he read my mind.
As is Bittman's thing, this recipe was super simple, especially since the crabs were already cleaned.
Unlike every other soft-shell crab recipe I've done, the crabs cooked at low heat for a longer time, yet still retained the crispiness of the shells.
The bite of the hot pepper and the mellowness of the slowly cooked garlic gave it plenty of flavor, but didn't overwhelm the subtlety of the crab. This was a surprising and delicious dish, and a great alternative to your typical soft-shell crab recipes. Recipe after the jump:
PASTA WITH SOFT-SHELL CRAB
From Mark Bittman for The New York Times
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or a little more
3 or 4 cloves garlic, slivered
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, or to taste
4 soft-shell crabs, cleaned (at fish market if you like)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound long pasta, like spaghetti or linguine
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves.
1. In a very deep skillet or broad saucepan, warm oil, garlic and chili flakes over low heat; do not let garlic brown. When garlic is soft — at least 5 minutes — add crabs (keep heat low to medium low; liquid in pan should barely bubble) and cover. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
2. Let the crabs cook until they give up all their liquid and become firm, about 15 minutes. When crabs are almost done, begin cooking pasta. When crabs are done, use tongs to remove them and hold them while cutting up with scissors. Return to pan.
3. Drain pasta when it is barely tender, a little short of how you’d want to eat it, reserving some cooking water. Add pasta to crabs and toss together over medium heat with pan juices and black pepper, adding some cooking water and a little more oil if necessary. (The amount of each will depend on how much more cooking the pasta needs, and how much liquid the crabs exuded.) Add parsley, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. When pasta is perfectly cooked, serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.