Soft-shell crabs are a seasonal seafood par excellence

BY MARIO BATALI Published: April 11, 2012
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— We don't typically think of seafood as seasonal. Some forms of salmon, sea bass, crustaceans and lobster are available in supermarkets year-round.

Traditionally, many species of fish have only been available during certain seasons. As the world has gotten flatter, it's become easier to ship product from the East China Sea to New York and back again. Fresh seafood is now accessible all year. But locating and shipping quality seafood increases the cost of the product, as well as its carbon footprint.

Some fish are locally harvested year-round. In New York, we have tilefish and squid in every season. However, migratory fish such as bluefish and tuna move up and down the East Coast as the temperature of the ocean water changes, and come through our area only in the spring or summer as they migrate.

I'm a dedicated champion of locally sourced ingredients, and seafood is no exception. If you live in a landlocked area, you don't necessarily need to omit fish from your diet. At my restaurants in Las Vegas, for instance, we source our seafood as locally as possible (from the West Coast).

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FUSILLI BUCATI WITH SOFT-SHELL CRABS AND HOT CHILES

Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer, 6 as a main course.

6 live soft-shell crabs, “hotel”-size

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

6 Italian frying peppers, cored, seeded and julienned

4 red jalapenos, cored, seeded and julienned

¼ cup dry white wine

2 cups basic tomato sauce (for quick results, try Mario Batali pasta sauces by Gia Russa)

1 ½ pounds fusilli bucati pasta

Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil in a large pasta pot.

While the water is heating, clean the crabs by snipping off their faces with a pair of scissors and removing the skirts. Cut each crab in half, season with salt and black pepper, and set aside.

In a 12- to 14-inch saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the onions, Italian peppers and jalapenos, and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the crab pieces and cook until the crabs are deep red and firm. Be careful not to break up the crabs with aggressive stirring. Add the white wine and the tomato sauce, and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water. Drop the fusilli into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less than the package instructions indicate. Just before the pasta is done, carefully ladle ¼ cup of the cooking water into the pan containing the crabs.

Drain the pasta in a colander, and add it to the crab mixture. Toss over medium heat for about 30 seconds, until the pasta is nicely coated. Pour onto a heated platter, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of “Molto Batali” (ecco 2011).

MCT Information Services

I once read something that said, ‘For top-scale flavor, bite when fish are in season,' and that sums it up.”

Elizabeth Meltz

Director of food safety and sustainability for Mario Batali's restaurants

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