Soft Shell Crabs in Lemon and Butter

About a year ago, a new fishmonger opened up in our neighborhood. Curious, and great seafood lovers, Matt and I decided to walk in.

IMG_20170603_194948.jpgMuch to our pleasant surprise, it turned out that not only was our new fishmonger a great source of cooking information, but also a purveyor of the rarer fishy creatures of the sea.


While we haven’t quite made the plunge to try sea urchins, we did jump on the opportunity to cook soft shell crabs which we happened upon this weekend.


As it turns out, they’re very easy to make, as in basically you dredge them in milk, and then flour, and then you sear them for 4 minutes total.


Following Lisa’s advice, we went the simple route of lemon and butter and it was a perfect light summer dinner.


  • 1 cup whole milk (we used skim milk and turned out fine)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 small (4-inch-wide) live or already dressed soft-shelled crabs, cleaned (I didn’t want to deal with live crabs and our trusty fishmonger had them fresh)
  • 1 cup Wondra or all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose and it was fine)
  • 4 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee (we used ghee)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


  1. Combine milk, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish and soak crabs 5 minutes. Lift 1 crab out of milk, letting excess drip off, and dredge in flour.
  2. Knock off excess flour and transfer to a tray.
  3. Repeat with remaining crabs, arranging them in 1 layer as coated.
  4. Heat clarified butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté crabs, upside down, 2 minutes.
  5. Turn over and sauté until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  6. Transfer crabs to a serving dish. Add butter pieces to skillet and cook until golden brown with a nutty aroma. Add lemon juice and parsley (mixture will bubble up) and remove from heat.
  7. Season sauce with salt and pepper and drizzle over crabs. Serve with fingerling potatoes or a light green salad.

Adapted from Bon Appetit Soft-Shelled Crabs Meunière.

Lobster Fra Diavolo

Somewhat recently a new fishmonger opened shop near our apartment, and when we popped by most recently, they had delicious looking, shelled lobster.  I also happened to have a hankering for fra diavolo and so we decided to get the lobster and the lobster stock they had on hand.


There are quite a few recipes out there for fra diavolo, and most were either for a generic seafood medley (which we felt wouldn’t highlight flavors from the lobster) or just in photos looked totally different from what we’ve always seen when we (rarely) ordered lobster fra diavolo in restaurants.  It was also surprising how many recipes for specifically “lobster” fra diavolo called for Cognac or some variation of brandy.  When we asked our friendly local fishmonger about this, he mentioned that apparently lobster and brandy are considered a classic taste pairing.  He also noted that he had tried lobster fra diavolo both with and without the brandy and didn’t seem to know the difference.


The recipe that we finally decided appeared to be the closest to the fra diavolos of memory was this one from Saveur.  Given the cost of the lobster and the stock, we figured we would go all in and made the recipe with some Armagnac, and we would argue that you really could taste it in the sauce.  It turned out fantastic, and if you can moderate the amount of chili pepper flakes for the “spicy” levels.

12 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb pre-cooked lobster meat (if you can find it, otherwise the Saveur recipe has some very detailed instructions on how to cook your own lobster)
12 cup flour
2 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
1 tsp. dried oregano
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
12 cup cognac or brandy
1 cup seafood or fish stock (I used lobster stock)
1 (28-oz.) box whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. fettuccine pasta, cooked
1 tbsp. chopped parsley
  1. Heat oil in an 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chile flakes, oregano, and garlic to pot; cook until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste; cook until lightly caramelized, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add cognac; cook until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add stock, tomatoes, and bay leaf; boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, partially covered, until thickened, about 30 minutes.
  6. Add lobster to pot; cook until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  7. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta; toss with sauce.
  8. Transfer to a large serving platter; sprinkle with parsley.

Adapted from Saveur Lobster Fra Diavolo.


There are a few dishes that seem to be very similar despite being from different countries.  For example, cioppino and bouillabaisse are twins in my mind, both of them difficult to spell and both delicious tomato based seafood pots of YUM.  When I first moved to San Francisco, I had not realized that cioppino was native to the city.  While it took me a good year to finally get around to trying it, I was not disappointed by the time the moment came!


While it was delicious, it never really made it into my cooking repertoire because of the all the ingredients needed, so I’d recommend saving it for a fancy date night at home, or when you really feel like you need a little bit of San Francisco.


I ended up modifying this recipe quite a bit just based on what was at my local grocery fish counter, the lesson being, you can really adjust the types of seafood you use.  Just make sure to cook all the shellfish first and then the fish and scallops.


  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a 28-to 32-ounce can whole tomatoes including juice, puréed coarse
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 10 small hard-shelled clams, scrubbed well
  • 1/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled, leaving tails and first joint intact
  • 1/4 pound sea scallops
  • 1 pound scrod or other white fish fillet, (I got orange roughy and it was great)
  • 1/2 bag of mussels
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves


  1. In a heavy kettle (at least 5 quarts) cook garlic in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add pepper flakes and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until softened. Add vinegar and boil until evaporated. Add wine, oregano, and bay leaf and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in tomato purée and tomato paste and bring to a boil.
  2. Add mussels clams and simmer, covered, 20-30 minutes, checking often and transferring clams and mussels as they open with tongs to a bowl (discard unopened ones).
  3. Add shrimp, scallops, and fish to soup and simmer, covered, 5 minutes, or until seafood is just cooked through. Stir in gently clams and mussels, and sprinkle with parsley.

Adapted from Epicurious Cioppino recipe

Ouzo Drenched Mussels

I really love mussels in white wine sauce but always thought that was the kind of food I would only order in a restaurant.  But one day I was reading the Wall Street Journal and came across this recipe and thought that just maybe I could do this at home. This wonderful recipe by Manhattan’s Balaboosta chef, Einat Admony for Ouzo Drenched Mussels with Fennel is  fabulous and as long as you have a good source of fresh and already cleaned and debearded mussels – it’s also easy to make. As with Chinese cooking, you need to have everything prepped and ready to go since it really only takes about a total of 15 minutes to actually cook.

I served it up with a crusty baguette and Admony’s recipe for Green Fatoush Salad. It was all so healthy, I didn’t even have to feel guilty. Well, except for that Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream that I had for dessert….

By the way, while my husband and I ate this as a main course, it could easily make a fabulous first course for more people.

Mussels in ouzo

Adapted from Einat Admony’s Ouzo-Drenched Mussels with Fennel as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal 

Yield: 2 main course servings or 4 servings as a first course


4 garlic cloves thinly sliced or 2 teaspoons finely chopped

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons EVOO

1 cup chopped or thinly sliced shallots

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

1/2 of a large fennel bulb cored and thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons chopped fennel fronds

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (I like lemon thyme if I can get it. In fact I like it so much that I am now growing it on my windowsill to ensure supply.)

1/2 cup Ouzo

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 pounds of mussels, cleaned and debearded (ask your fish monger to do this)

2 Tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley


  1. In a large, lidded pot over low heat, sauté garlic in butter and oil until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium, add shallots and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, sliced fennel, chili flakes, thyme and pinches of salt and pepper, and sauté until vegetables soften, about 2-3 minutes.  tomatoes and thyme
  2. Pour ouzo and wine into pot and simmer until alcohol cooks off, about 4 minutes. ouzoStir in mussels. Quickly cover pot with lid and steam mussels until they open, about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat, toss in parsley and fennel fronds. fennel fronds
  3. Gently toss mussels to coat in pan drippings. Serve immediately with good crusty bread. (And be sure to soak up all of that wonderful pot liquor with the bread – it’s the best part! A little briny and full of fennel, shallots and fresh herbs.) If any mussels don’t open on their own – toss them! In 2 pounds of mussels, we had only one that didn’t open. If you have more than 2 – complain to your fish monger.