Soft Shell Crabs

includes soft shel crab parissienne 023

 Soft Shell Crabs Parisienne Styleincludes soft shel crab parissienne 023

   “Papa”

“To talk about soft shell crabs I am always reminded of my dad.  He loved the ocean.  My dad taught us everything about the ocean, seafood and how to enjoy them both! Before I go on to discuss soft shell crabs as promised I would like to share my memories of my dad.  I will refer him as Papa! 

   Papa had the biggest smile I had ever seen!  In fact everything about Papa was big except in stature.  He was only 5’7”.  Not only was he always impeccably dressed, he always had a tan.  He wore lots of rings and his pinkie ring was a huge diamond!  As far as I can remember he always owned a red convertible.   

   It wasn’t always like this for my Dad.  He was born in the little town of Monte di Procida.  It has an area of less than 1 ½ square miles. Located on the southern coast of Italy near Naples, this little panoramic town is almost isolated from the rest of the towns.  It sits on a perch overlooking the Gulf of Naples, the many towns below it and if you stand at my uncle’s house one can even see Sorrento and Gaeta as your eyes follow the coastline.  The islands of Procida and Ischia are so close you can almost reach out to touch them and on a clear day Capri too!  Its unique harbor has been utilized in ancient times since the Greeks.  Now the harbor is filled with a fleet of fishing boats!   My father grew up during WWII.  During this time the beautiful town was also a strategic point for the Germans.  It was used as a base for torpedo practice.  Papa would often tell us some scary stories about that time. It was because of WWII and it’s destruction that my dad was determined to come to America for a better life.  America changed my Dad’s life for the better and he became this bigger than life character that we looked up to!

   One year when I was 9 years old he took all of us on a transcontinental cruise. Not only did he take his family but he also brought along his red Pontiac convertible. So my dad,  along with my mom, my brother, my sister, I and the red Pontiac convertible crossed the Atlantic making several stops including,  Portugal, the rock of Gibraltar, Spain, Genoa and finally Naples.  I still can picture him and Nonna (his mom) driving with the top down in the little town of Monte di Procida.  Nonna with a kerchief on her head to protect her hair from the wind sat so proudly next to her son.  The red Pontiac convertible was as big as my dad’s ego!  But unfortunately the fancy American car was not made for the narrow ancient streets that St. Paul once crossed on his way to Rome to see Caesar. Without a care in the world my dad squeezed through those streets waving to all the towns’ people, greeting them all by name.  By the end of the trip the red Pontiac convertible sides were so dented in that we were barely able to open the doors. But no worries…my dad packed the red Pontiac convertible with us as we travelled back across the Atlantic to New York.  When we arrived home he went and bought himself another one!

    Traveling though Italy with my dad was such an experience.  People were drawn to him.  He had such a big personality.  So warm and gracious!  It was always such excitement when my dad went to visit his hometown. Everyone came over to greet him.  Our house was like a café.  We were always brewing espresso.  It got to be as soon as I saw a car coming I wouldn’t even wait for my Nonna to ask me to make coffee.  I immediately took out the moka pot and started the process.   I also set out the little crystal aperitif glasses for the vermouth.  Espresso, vermouth and limoncello were served!   Before they left my dad would always give the guests a big chunk of American milk chocolate as a souvenir from America. My dad loved American milk chocolate so much so that he wanted to share with his family and friends back in Italy.  As he does things so big he would order 40 pound slabs of milk chocolate from his favorite Italian bakery, Caffe Aurora, here in Poughkeepsie to bring back to Italy!  

   It was only one year that he brought over his red convertible I think he learned his lesson with the big American car because after that he would usually rent a FIAT 500! It was funny watching him load up his FIAT with watermelons because one thing about my father if he bought something for himself he always bought for his sisters too.  He made everyone smile and laugh when they saw him pull up with his little Fiat and pull out watermelon after watermelon!    The big smiles from everyone made my heart melt!  And he was so funny teasing the market people.  I love listening to his Montese sing song accent.   The dad that I loved was the dad I saw in Italy.  One summer he brought just my brother and me to visit Nonna in Italy.  As a treat he brought my brother and I to Capri.  It was so fun!  It was such a special trip!  But the best part was when we stopped for lunch at this rooftop restaurant overlooking the beautiful views of Capri.  The waiter gazing at my dad’s bigger than life personality along with his striking blue eyes (all the more impressive with his dark tan) asked if he was Raff Vallone. As I watched my dad’s already broad smile get bigger, Papa asked the waiter, “tell me more who this Raff Vallone is!” All impressed that he looked like a movie star who was known for his rugged good looks my father just beamed! And my brother and I just sat a little taller thinking how handsome our father really was that other people thought so too!”


Soft Shell Crabs

Soft Shell Crabs are available at your seafood market from April to September. It’s during this time that crabs molt their old exoskeletons.  These soft shell crabs are removed from the ocean as soon as they shed their shells to prevent hardening. The famous Maryland blue crabs that we are accustomed to hammering the outer shell and picking it apart to get to the delicious meat are now soft.  After removing the mouthparts, the gills and the abdomen, the whole crab is now edible, shell and all!  No work is involved in eating soft shell crabs! Soft shell crabs were a much anticipated menu item every spring at “the restaurant”!  We had people from all over come for our Soft Shell Crabs.   As you read on I will share all the secrets of cooking the soft shell crabs so you can make them just as good at home.  Typically Soft Shell Crabs are fried but at “the restaurant” sautéed was the most popular.  One of the ways we served them was in a Parisienne Sauce (please read recipe #11 blog post) for the home cook please understands that these crabs only survive a few days out of water.  So when picking out your soft shell crabs make sure they are fresh!  You can’t tell just by looking at them.

Secret #1   not only do you need to make sure they are plump don’t be embarrassed to give it the smell test too! They should smell clean and astringent!

Secret #2   refuse to have the fish monger clean the crabs for you or the crabs will lose all their liquid. Liquid is important so the crabs are very plump.  Wait until you are ready to cook the crabs to clean.  It’s easy to clean them!

Secret #3 I have given you step by step process for cleaning the crabs.  And showed you how to prepare then with an egg batter.  But you can also prepare them with just flour.  Putting a floured soft shell crab (no egg batter) in hot oil results in the plumpest crabs ever.

 

 Cleaning and preparing soft shell crabs for the Parisienne Sauce

 

  1. Flip the soft shell crab oversoft shell crab underneath

  1. Remove the stomach flap on the center back of the crabsoft shell crab stomach flap

  1. Underneath the flaps on the front of the crab are the lungs.soft shell crab flap for lungs

  1. Remove the lungssoft shel crab lung

  2. Remove the eyessoft shel crab eyes

  3. Remove the beard underneath the eyesspft shel crab beard

  1. Prepare batter for the egg battered soft shell crabs. Beat 3 eggs with a pinch of saltsoft shel crab prep

  2. Rinse soft shell crabs in water.

  3. Dredge in flour on both sides and underneath the flaps toosoft shell crab in flour

  4. Dip floured crabs into beaten eggs and coat well.soft shel crab in egge batter

  5. Heat a pan with oil until very hot.

  6. Place back of crab into the frying pansoft shel crab dredged

  1. Lower heat and fry 5-8 minutes on each side. There will be a lot of splatter so keep a splatter guard on pan.

  1. Drain the crabs on paper towels and now they are ready for the Parissiene sauce!

  2. Place soft shell crabs in the Parisienne sauceincludes soft shel crab parissienne 045

      16. Cook until sauce is thickened and serve!

Buon Appetito!

 

Linguini White Clam

        linguini wc illustration

      “Mornings were the best part of the day! We got to go to work with my mom!  My brother and I couldn’t eat breakfast fast enough to get ready!  Sitting by the bathroom door we patiently watched my mom put on her lipstick. I loved the sound she made after carefully sliding the lipstick around her lips, pursing her lips together.  That pop sound signaled, “Let’s go!”      

   Working was going down to “the restaurant” to help set up all the tables for lunch.  While my brother and I carefully placed the paper placemats at each place setting, my mom methodically placed the silverware in their proper spots. Watching her balance all those butter dishes I marveled at how she tossed the plates like Frisbees landing perfectly over the butter knives!  I secretly hoped that one day my mom would let me set up the tables all by myself.

   Finally after setting up all those tables we got our much anticipated reward! We followed my mom into the kitchen where she pulled out two little cans of tomato juice out of the refrigerator.  As we continued to follow her to the salad pantry where she lifted up the gleaming stainless steel top to pull out a lemon cutting it into perfect wedges we  caught a glimpse of my dad and his brothers busy at work!  My brother and I stood very quietly as we didn’t want to distract them from their work. The restaurant kitchen was sacred!  Grabbing 2 small glasses, my mom had us sit at a table adjacent to the bar. As we slid into the booth my brother and I gleefully opened up those little cans of tomato juice pouring it into little glasses and squeezing wedges of lemon into them!  I can still remember the taste of that tomato juice!  To this day no tomato juice has ever compared to what we sipped on back then in “the restaurant” sitting next to my mom after a productive morning!” My brother and I felt great satisfaction knowing that we too did our share in “the restaurant”! “

 Hello!

   Have you all been practicing making your garlic and oil sauce?  Don’t worry if you have had to practive a few times to get it perfect.  It’s all in the timing of getting the garlic a perfect gold color and then stopping the cooking by adding the parsley cooling it off.

   Now that you have mastered the basic recipe of Garlic and Oil Sauce the next sauces will be easy.   Linguini White Clam was another very popular dish at “the restaurant”.  It uses the same ingredients and the same exact method as the garlic and oil recipe with the addition of clams.  We will be omitting the salt since the clams are already salty.  In the restaurant we used cherrystone clams (big clams) instead of  the littlenecks (baby clams).  We liked using the cherrystone clams because they had the most clam juice and also because they yielded the most clams with the least amount of shucking. We don’t recommend canned clams.  To get “the restaurant” flavor always use fresh clams!

4819e21d1b8e7a245892fa8051bcbd26Shucking a clam doesn’t require strength.  It requires a little knowledge to get the clam knife through the opening of the clams cutting the muscle that keeps it shut tight.  Once the clam knife penetrates into the cavity of the clam then you turn the knife upwards to cut through both ends of the muscle that attach the clam to the shell. If you feel intimidated by shucking a clam you could always ask the fishmonger at the seafood market to shuck them for you.  Also another trick is to put the clams in the freezer for an hour which will relax the muscle that keeps the clam shut tight.  The clam knife will be easier to wedge in between the clam shell. An even easier way is to put the clams in the freezer for 3 hours. Then bring them out and let them thaw.  As they thaw they will open up for you.

 

868f3d5c7d07b376faf6ee3de9b073982fa2c805acd5d2999d9480b96d6e5c306715e34bedf459977880cea8d43443f2

 

 f8385b95e929dc7c9097281328bbc359



Linguini White Clam

(Served over 1 pound of linguini)

8c4402ba13a8b03748fdc10bcddb3ad1

 

Ingredients:

A dozen cherrystone clams ( shucked and save ½ cup clam juice)

½ cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs chopped Italian parsley

4 medium cloves of thinly sliced thin

Pinch of red pepper flakes

 

Procedure:

           Wash and scrub the clams. Shuck the clams and save all the clam juice. Put the clam juice aside to allow all the sand and clam bits to settle.  Chop the clams well.  Pour off the clear clam juice discarding the sandy settlement. Saute the garlic in the extra virgin olive oil until golden.  Take the skillet off the burner and throw in the chopped parsley.  Pour in the ½ cup of clear clam juice, the chopped clams and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Return to medium high heat. The clam sauce will foam as the clam juice evaporates.  Keep stirring.  Once the foam forms to the center of the pan the clams will be cooked (probably around 3 minutes).   Add a ladle (1/4 cup)  of starchy pasta water from your pasta that has been cooking  to the white clam sauce.

99ac2dff90f9d9d0c7735c459b8da40841c7603e3f26e58f6639496defbda28f

     Cook the pasta according to your liking.  We  always make our pasta aldente! You may either add the sauce to the pasta or you can add the pasta to the skillet to soak up some of the sauce and then pour it all in a big pasta bowl and serve. Depending on whether you want to serve this dish as a  first course or main course, it can serve anywhere from 2-6 people.

 A variation of the White Clam Sauce is Red Clam Sauce.  It is the same  recipe except for one ingredient.  Instead of the 1/4 cup of pasta water, at the end you add a 1/4 cup of marinara sauce.  Use the 825 MAIN Marinara! I promise it will be the exact taste of “the restaurant”!

Mussels in Marinara Sauce

Mussels are a staple of southern Italian cooking. I found that no matter what dinner table I sat at or what restaurant we ate at while visiting family in Monte di Procida and Ischia mussels were always part of the meal, either as an appetizer, on bruschetta, on spaghetti in a soup or even on a vegetable side dish. I am surprised I didn’t see it on a dessert. The following  is a simple yet delicious recipe to bring la vita gustosa of Napolitano cooking at your table!

Fresh tomatoesIngredients
24 small fresh mussels
One 25 oz jar 825 Main Marinara Sauce
1 lb linguine

Procedure
Place washed debearded mussels in a lidded pot turn on medium while steaming shake pot twice. When mussels are opened take off burner and let cooled. Once cooled, reserve liquid and shuck mussels. Place shucked mussels and mussel water in a heavy large skillet. Add jar of Marinara sauce. (If you don’t mind the shells you can also add the mussels shell and all right to the marinara sauce and the heat will open the mussels and release the liquid into the marinara sauce making a most delicious sauce.) Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts of water to boil with 1/2 teaspoon salt, once boiling add pasta. After 7 minutes drain pasta. Pour pasta back into empty pot adding mussel  sauce and toss together  and serve.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

Salmon Farfalle in Marinara Cream Sauce

Farfalle pastaIngredients
12 oz fresh Salmon
4 oz grated Parmagiana cheese
1 cup heavy cream
One 25 oz jar 825 Main Marinara Sauce
1 lb Farfalle pasta

Procedure
Bake salmon for 12 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. In a medium skillet add cheese, cream and Marinara Sauce on simmer. Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts of water to boil with 1 teaspoon salt, once boiling add pasta. Remove fish from oven and flake salmon off and into Marinara mixture, turn on to medium high while draining pasta. Drain pasta and return to pot add salmon red sauce and mix altogether over medium heat serve in 2 plates.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

Zuppe di Clams Marinara

Fresh parsleyIngredients
24 littleneck clams
1 clove chopped garlic
1 Tbl fresh chopped parsley
One 25 oz jar 825 Main Marinara Sauce
1 lb linguine

Procedure
Wash clams and scrub under cold running water with stiff brush. Discard any opened clams. Combine olive oil in saucepan heat. Add clams, still in their shells. Add chop garlic and parsley. Cover and cook 2 min. Add Marinara Sauce and cook 10 min. Bring 2 quarts of water in pot to a boil add, 1/2 teaspoon salt and begin cooking pasta for 7 minutes. Drain pasta and plate. Pour the clam sauce over the pasta and serve.

Prep time:10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

Shrimp with Marinara Sauce

Ingredients
1 lb peeled deveined raw shrimp
One 25 oz jar 825 Main Marinara Sauce
1 lb linguini

Procedure
Bring 2 quarts of water in pot to a boil add, 1 teaspoon salt & begin cooking pasta for 7 minutes. While pasta cooking in large heavy skillet sauté  diced shrimp with  Marinara sauce on medium heat until the shrimp become firm. Don’t overcook or the shrimp will be tough. Drain pasta and return to pot adding shrimp marinara and mix altogether over medium heat and serve.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4